Choose one: Social Progress or the Filibuster

Feb 7, 2021

In solidarity,

Alan Minsky for the PDA National Team

The Time is Now to Remove The Filibuster,

a Procedural Tactic with Roots in the Defense of Slavery


The Democrats have won the trifecta. They took the White House, and have majorities in both houses of Congress. So, they should be able to pass their agenda, right? Nope.

As things stand there is virtually no chance whatsoever that we will see major parts of the Democratic agenda passed: such as immigration reform, gun control measures, voting rights protections, labor law reform, healthcare, and environmental policy.

Why? Unlike in the House of Representatives, where a bill can pass with a simple majority, almost every bill in the Senate requires 60 percent support because the opposition party can declare a filibuster, blocking the bill until it reaches the 60 percent threshold.

Now, there are rare exceptions. A few times a year the filibuster can be side-stepped to pass budgetary bills through a process called reconciliation that reduces the threshold back to 50 percent plus one.

However, the key word there is “budgetary.” In other words, this 50 percent threshold only applies to things that have to do with Government expenditures and revenues. For everything else, including the list above, the GOP has an effective veto.

However, all the Democrats in the Senate have to do to eliminate the filibuster as an obstacle is vote on a party line—but already two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, have said they will not take this step.

This is where progressives’ idea of ending the filibuster is acceptable. We have to win that argument—and that’s exactly what PDA is going to do!

We have to explain something many moderate Democrats are failing to grasp—that ending the filibuster is both good for the country and it’s also winning politics.

How so? Well, here’s the fundamental question: does the Democratic Party really believe that its agenda is what is best for the people and the country? If it truly does, and its campaign slogans are not just hollow words, then it should do everything possible to pass that agenda. Now, do people prefer politicians who stick by their word or politicians who make hollow promises? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Look, we have little to fear from reversing the filibuster. Even if the GOP wins back the Senate in 2022, they won’t have enough votes to overcome Presidential vetoes. Now, since we don’t know the future but do know the present, that leaves us with two years to achieve a positive progressive agenda on social issues (i.e., non-budgetary legislation)—but only if we eliminate the filibuster.

If Democrats take that step—and remove this archaic procedural measure that has its roots in the defense of slavery and serves white supremacy right up to the present—we can pass progressive social legislation like immigration reform, common sense gun laws, the pro-democracy For the People Act (H.R.1 and S.1), and the pro-labor PRO Act, any and all of which will transform the American political landscape.

On ending the filibuster and so much more, it is the progressives who will lead the fight, and PDA is on the front lines. Please support PDA with a monthly sustaining donation.