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Agree to Disagree: The Filibuster

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Upcoming Debate   March 19, 2021

Agree to Disagree: The Filibuster

How do you keep a bill from becoming law if you don’t have a majority in Congress? The answer comes from an 18th-century Dutch word with pirate roots: The filibuster. Though its derivation speaks of Caribbean marauders, its modern application is a political strategy that allows a 41-vote minority in the Senate to block legislation. Created after the U.S constitution was written, it effectively requires a supermajority to get most legislation done – something that’s left the current Democrat-controlled Congress grumbling, but cuts across both parties. So here’s the question: Should minorities have that power? Or is it time to kill the filibuster? Those in favor of killing it say the rule is arcane, anti-democratic, and often used to prevent the passage of matters like gun control and civil rights legislation. Those against its death say this little understood Senate rule serves as an important bulwark against the tyrannies of the majority, something with which America’s founding fathers were especially concerned. Either way, we figured the issue was ripe for debate.

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Caroline Fredrickson
Caroline Fredrickson - President, American Constitution Society & Author, Under the Bus

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Thomas Jipping - Senior Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
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