“Keep the filibuster. It could save progressive legislation in the future.”

From Georgetown law professor David Super, in the Washington Post:

This perspective is remarkably shortsighted. Although the filibuster has blocked central parts of the Democratic program in recent years, it has done the same for key features of the Republican agenda, too. At a time when the Republican Party is becoming ever more extreme, and when other constraints on irresponsible action have fallen away, the filibuster is more important than ever as a tool to protect hard-won legislative gains of the civil rights, environmental and consumer revolutions. It is the filibuster alone that protects the Endangered Species Act, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Legal Services Corp….

The filibuster — the requirement that 60 senators must agree to end debate before a bill can come to a vote — is particularly important in our era of political polarization. In bygone times, each party could be restrained by its moderates. Those days are gone: Moderates rarely survive Republican primaries, and the few who do rarely break from the party on key votes…

What’s more, in past decades, well-informed moderate swing voters punished either party for adopting extreme positions. Today, few swing voters remain, and most of those pay far too little attention to public affairs to notice or care if Republicans gutted pro-civil rights laws and other protections. Partisan news bubbles ensure that vast numbers of voters will never grasp the damage caused by such a legislative dismantling….

The filibuster also serves as a crucial counterweight against big-money politics. Holding a majority to block legislation backed by the corporate elite is difficult when millions of dollars in campaign contributions tempt legislators to vote with irresponsible banks, avaricious petrochemical companies or reckless lumber interests. Forty-one votes to block radical deregulation is a much more achievable goal….

By contrast, McConnell has repeatedly shown himself a sincere supporter of the legislative filibuster. Despite controlling both chambers of Congress, Republicans’ only major legislative achievement during Trump’s first two years in office was the 2017 corporate tax cuts. McConnell was willing to squander other opportunities to advance the Republican agenda rather than end the legislative filibuster. (Had he eliminated the filibuster, Republicans might have enacted Trump’s proposals to sell off public infrastructure to private corporations and repealed, rather than underenforced, Title IX protections against gender-based discrimination in education.) Given McConnell’s proven restraint on the legislative filibuster, Democrats can reasonably expect that if they resist the temptation to eliminate it, it will be there for them when next they need it….

Inventive senators over the years have often found ways to break filibusters. The tools include forcing obstructing senators to vote repeatedly to block legislation; adding features attractive to the holdouts’ constituents, including “fixes” to expose bad-faith objections; and breaking omnibus legislation into smaller pieces to force senators to vote against specific, popular reforms. To be sure, such approaches are more difficult in today’s polarized environment, but we have no evidence they are impossible. In any case, trying them carries less risk than eliminating the filibuster — a move that could cost Democrats dearly when the tables are turned.

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