Defending the Filibuster: It Helps Save Us From Bad Ideas

Major issues should be addressed with time and care.

By + More

From the left, some expressed satisfaction the nuclear option had been shelved, while others called the compromise a sellout. From the right, the reaction was negative. Many felt the Republican senators, including me, had dropped the ball and made an unforgivable mistake of reaching across the aisle to compromise away a winning issue. After the passage of time and since we are now in the minority, I don't hear many Republicans wanting to change the rule to a mere majority.

Looking back, I believe the Gang of 14 represented the best of the Senate as an institution and embodied the roles and responsibility of its members.

We face similar frustrations with major, complex issues in our country today: healthcare, entitlement reform, immigration, energy, and climate change. There are days I wish we didn't have to get 60 votes, as I have seen my own ideas come to a screeching halt at the hands of the filibuster. But agreement on these complex issues, whose solution will affect every facet of American life, should be hard to achieve.

Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York once said we should never pass "major legislation that affects most Americans without real bipartisan support. It opens the door to all kinds of political trouble." He noted that the party that opposed its passage would take shots at it whenever things went wrong, and large segments of the American public would never accept its legitimacy. He was right.

Fifty plus one is a good way to elect people to office. Requiring national consensus via the Senate's 60-vote threshold to end debate remains the most effective way to pass legislation that brings about major change in our country. Simply stated, the larger the vote, the bigger the buy in needed. 

Read why the filibuster is breaking down the legislative process, by Sen. Tom Harkin. 

  • Check out this month's best political cartoons. 
  • Become a political insider: Subscribe to U.S. News Weekly, our digital magazine.