The Senate Filibuster – Abolish, Restrict or Live With?


With the U.S. Senate split 50-50 and the Biden Administration proposing an ambitious legislative agenda that hangs in the balance, there has been renewed interest in proposals for eliminating or narrowing the Senate filibuster. Since 1975, 60 votes in the Senate have been required to end a filibuster (prolonged debate to prevent or delay the passage of a bill). And the historical requirement of a “talking filibuster” (requiring Senators to be present in person) is no longer required—making 60 votes a de facto requirement for most major legislation.

Defenders of the filibuster assert that it promotes bipartisanship and gives some weight to the views of the minority party. Critics, on the other hand, assail the filibuster as a relic of a Jim Crow era that thwarts the will of the majority and has been used to stymie civil rights legislation in particular. We hosted a discussion on the filibuster featuring three experts who address such questions as: What are the origins of the filibuster? What are the arguments for keeping it or jettisoning it? What are the prospects of reform? And what should any reform look like?

Russell D. Feingold
, President of the American Constitution Society and former U.S. Senator for Wisconsin
Sarah A. Binder, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution; Co-author of Politics or Principle? Filibustering in the United States Senate
Norman J. Ornstein, Professor Emeritus, American Enterprise Institute

Hon. Marcy L. Kahn
, Former Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department

Sponsoring Committees:
Task Force on the Rule of Law, Stephen L. Kass, Chair
Election Law, Katharine Loving, Chair