After a deal was announced that allows some of President Barack Obama’s appointees to move ahead without leaders using the “nuclear option,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, let loose a 16-minute, 38-second tirade against the continued threat of obstruction through the Senate filibuster.
“The United States Senate, in my view, cannot function with any degree of effectiveness if a super-majority of 60 votes are needed to pass virtually any piece of legislation,” he said. “When people ask:, ‘Why is it that Congress has a favorability rating of less than 10%?’ the answer is fairly obvious. The middle class of this country is disappearing.”
Sen. Harry Reid had been threatening to use the “nuclear option” for days, which would have allowed nominees to advance with a simple majority vote rather than 60 votes, enough to break a filibuster.
“The United States Senate is a very peculiar institution,” Sanders said. “It is peculiar in the sense that any one member, one of 100, can come down here on the floor and utter two magical words which bring the Senate to a complete halt, and that is, ‘I object. I will not allow the Senate to go forward.’ Which means the whole government shuts down.”
He underscored the striking number of halts in the Senate through a filibuster since Obama’s first election.
“Since 2008, what has happened is the Republicans have taken obstructionism to an entirely new level. Virtually every piece of legislation now requires 60 votes,” he said.
Sanders may have been ranting against the damaging effects of the filibuster, but he still claims one of the most noteworthy filibusters of the last few years when he took to the floor for 8.5 hours in 2010 to protest a tax deal for wealthier Americans. Sanders also voted “no” on a proposed filibuster fix earlier this year, because he believed it didn’t go far enough.
On The Cycle Tuesday, former Senate historian Richard Baker argued that the Senate will never have true filibuster reform because the Senate members care about the institution itself and changing the filibuster would mean changing the very Senate they respect.
“People in the Senate, people in this nation would ultimately rue the day that the Senate decided to take all of its major actions by simple majority vote,” he said. “The filibuster forces the majority to listen to the minority.”