In a republic like ours, the decisions our leaders make can have significant impacts on the lives of everyday citizens, which is why it’s critical that our laws undergo rigorous debate. However, if politicians eliminate the filibuster, as many of them want to, then the quality of our public policy will diminish.
Arizona’s own Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is one of just a handful of senators who do not want to scrap the filibuster. And despite major pressure by progressives, she’s refusing to back down. I hope she stands her ground for all Arizona citizens.
The filibuster rule requires legislation to receive 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to pass, which generally means one needs at least a few votes from the minority party to pass anything. This is meant to foster proper debate and ensure legislation has some input from the minority. However, Senate Democrats are growing frustrated that the rule is slowing them down from passing key items of their agenda.
I understand the frustration. If I were in the majority party in D.C., I would want to see our legislation and agenda pass as well. But I have also come to see that more common ground between both parties than one might think, and compromise will produce stronger, more durable policy in the long run. I suspect Sen. Sinema has the same understanding.
Unfortunately, other lawmakers in recent years have, in their zeal to pass legislation, thrown this understanding to the wayside when the filibuster became inconvenient to them. Majority Leader Harry Reid ended the 60-vote threshold for lower court judicial nominations in 2013 and regretted it when Republicans used the same maneuver on Supreme Court Justices.
Both parties are quick to become frustrated with the filibuster when they are in the majority, because it slows down their agenda. But here’s the thing: that’s exactly what we should want. Rushed legislation could do significant harm to Americans. Also, neither party will be in the majority forever, so the filibuster ensures that majorities can’t overreach every time they come to power.
In fact, Democrats have used the filibuster many times on key issues in recent years: from stopping Donald Trump’s border wall to blocking two pro-life bills. If they do away with the filibuster today, when they inevitably lose the majority again in the future, they will regret it when Republicans push through their own partisan agenda with a simple majority.
All of this is not to say that in protecting the filibuster, we shouldn’t change anything. It’s obvious that gridlock in Washington is at an all-time high, and much-needed progress is grinding to a halt. But eliminating the filibuster won’t fix the problem — it will only exacerbate it.
That’s easier said than done, but in a republic, doing what’s right is never easy. Most Americans want to see good policy that helps everyone in our country get ahead, and we have a role to play in making that happen.
We need to elect leaders who will pledge to work with each other, find common ground, and find real solutions. If we do, we will see real progress without having to destroy our institutions.
Editor's note: Republican Sen. Paul Boyer represents District 20 in the Arizona Senate. He is chairman of the Senate Education Committee and is a history teacher.