Starting the Conversation on Filibusters

Many Americans have heard the term “filibuster,” but most don’t know exactly what it means. A filibuster is a powerful tool used in the Senate that allows a member to prolong debate and delay or prevent a vote on a bill. It has sparked plenty of debate recently, as leaders contemplate whether members should be allowed to “talk a bill to death.”

Click below to get an overview of filibusters and their impact on democracy.

So Here’s the Question

At your next gathering or in a group chat, use these questions to spark a discussion:

  • Some say the filibuster impairs the policy making process – do you agree or disagree?
  • How does the filibuster force compromise?
  • Some types of legislation like taxing and spending are not subject to the filibuster – should other types of legislation be added to this list? Like what?
  • Why does the minority party in the Senate deserve the type of protection a filibuster offers?
  • Would requiring a “talking” filibuster, versus an implied one, be a better option and force a member to work for it, as President Biden has suggested?
  • What would you say to those who believe the filibuster is just a form of sour grapes for the minority party to enact revenge on the majority?

Something to Consider

Here’s a taste of what people are saying either supporting or opposing the filibuster. We’ve intentionally left out the commenters’ names so you can focus on the viewpoint itself, not the speaker’s affiliations.

I think the solution is for senators to change their behavior and begin to work together, which is what the country wants us to do.”

I think the filibuster serves a purpose. It is not often used, it’s often less used now than when I first came, and I think it’s part of the Senate that differentiates itself.”

It slows down the legislative process and makes the Senate less productive.

The framers designed the Senate to require deliberation, to force cooperation and to ensure that federal laws in our big, diverse country earn broad enough buy-in to receive the lasting consent of the governed.”

If the filibuster is eliminated, a new and dangerous precedent will be set to pass sweeping, partisan legislation that changes the direction of our nation every time there is a change in political control. The consequences will be profound – our nation may never see stable governing again."

For Deeper Exploration

Looking for more? These resources will help you:

Share with the Community

Find us on social media and make your voice heard in the fight for democracy. Use #DemocracyChats and #JuntoClub to share what you’re learning from your pro-democracy conversations and what questions are sparking the best discussions in your circles.