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Why It's So Hard For The U.S Senate To Pass Laws

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

The U.S Senate, made up of one hundred Senators, votes to pass laws. When a bill reaches the Senate floor, Senators engage in a debate on whether to pass the bill or not.

In order to end the debate, there needs to be a majority of fifty-one votes to pass the bill. But the minority can do something to delay the vote on the bill. This tactic is known as filibustering.

In politics, a filibuster is when a group of Senators prolongs the debate to delay the process of voting on the bill.

The word 'filibuster' trails back to the dutch word for 'pirates'. Ergo, a filibuster describes how Senators hold the court "captive" by trying to impede the legislative process just like pirates hold ships captive.

So how do Senators stop a filibuster?

Senators need to do something called 'cloture', which is the procedure for ending the debate and holding a vote to pass the bill. For this to happen, the Senate requires a supermajority of sixty votes to entertain cloture and end a filibuster.

Not only is the filibuster time-consuming as it makes it extremely difficult for the Senate to pass any laws, but it is moreover undemocratic as it obstructs the Senate's voting procedure.

What's more alarming: The Senate's use of the filibuster has skyrocketed over the years.

Between 1970 and 2000, cloture votes increased to an average of 17 per year. From 2000-2018, the cloture votes boosted up to an average of 53 per year with a continuing trend upward.

And like everything in American politics these days, the filibuster is partisan. Senate Republicans have used the filibuster almost twice as much to prevent Democratic legislation from passing than Senate Democrats have used it to prevent Senate Republican legislation from passing.

The filibuster affects both political parties. When a party is in the minority, the filibuster works well for them. When the same party is in the majority and they are the ones being filibustered, they don't like it.

Times are getting more partisan, meaning more and more laws will be filibustered by the party in the minority. This is undemocratic and an obstruction of the passing of legislation. For those reasons, the reign of the filibuster should end.

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