The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Sen. Romney is wrong on the filibuster

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Capitol Hill on Nov. 4 in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Capitol Hill on Nov. 4 in Washington, D.C. (Alex Brandon/AP)
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Noticeably absent from Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) latest paean to the filibuster, “Filibuster or bust: The Senate minority’s power is essential” [op-ed, Nov. 1], was any hint of what he is willing to do to preserve it as a viable legislative tool. If the filibuster is an engine of compromise, what compromise is Mr. Romney prepared to make to allow the Democratic majority to pass vital legislation on voting rights, criminal justice reform, immigration, climate change and more? 

It stands to reason that a senator in the minority interested in preserving the filibuster would be working hard to allow votes on legislation, even legislation with which he disagrees, provided the voice of the minority is allowed to temper the extremes of that legislation. But I don’t see any effort on Mr. Romney’s part to insist that the Republican caucus allow democracy to function, and Sen. Joe Manchin III’s (D-W.Va.) latest failed attempt to get Republicans to support voting rights reform demonstrates that the Republican Party has no interest in allowing votes on compromise proposals. 

If the Republican Party insists on using the filibuster as a complete blockade of majority rule, rather than a tool for tempering the most extreme ideas, then the filibuster must be reformed to return it to its original purposes.

Noah Gradofsky, Merion Station, Pa.

Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) antiquated defense of the filibuster overlooked the key discriminatory bias of the Senate “design” and failed to understand simple math. With all states receiving equal representation, irrespective of population, the Senate skews rural and conservative. West Virginia has the same voting influence as New York. West Virginia gets almost a 10-to-1 boost over New York. Thus, even without the filibuster, Mr. Romney’s “minority empowerment” terrorizes the functions of the Senate.

And yes, to label the filibuster as racist is accurate, as it parallels the Three-Fifths Compromise that gave outsize influence to Southern slave states.

The filibuster is a curiously odd courtesy that has been weaponized by desperate obstructionists who refuse to fairly represent the will of the people. It needs to go.

Andrew Wilson, Alexandria

Though he has sometimes taken courageous and principled stands, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has muddled the argument for continuing the current filibuster process in the Senate. Although the senator stated that the filibuster has been around since “shortly after our nation’s founding,” it was not used until 1837, and then rarely used for much of the Senate’s first two centuries.

 The senator ignored the filibuster’s checkered history of abuse by those forces determined to prevent equal justice for all Americans. Though he paid lip service to the importance of bipartisanship, recent actions (or inaction) by his fellow Republicans shed light on the obstructionist practice that is the modern filibuster.  

Practical revisions to current Senate procedures could include allowing a majority vote to green-light proceeding to debate; make the party engaging in a filibuster hold the floor by actually speaking; and, given our political stalemated times, change the 60-vote requirement to 55 votes to break a filibuster.

These suggestions are not mutually exclusive, and they would go a long way in returning the Senate to what it claims to be: the “world’s greatest deliberative body.” Given its current sad state, that claim may be the world’s greatest joke.  

Len NovickRockville

I was never on board with abolishing the filibuster totally until the Republican-led states started their push to enact any number of restrictive voting rights bills. Now, ending the filibuster may be the only hope to salvage what is fast becoming minority rule in this country. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has shamelessly torpedoed every popular bill that the Democrats have proposed, often without even allowing for debate. When the public favors common-sense gun-safety measures, combating climate change and equal access to the polls, Mr. McConnell does his best to thwart those measures. How does that square with Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) appeal for bipartisanship? 

Abolishing, or at least modifying, the filibuster seems at this point to be the only solution to the Republican Party’s — specifically Mr. McConnell’s — affront to our democracy.

Bill Richards, Falls Church