Abolishing the Senate Filibuster Outright Would Be Imprudent | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Charles Lipson during a Newsweek podcast debate on the U.S. Senate's filibuster rule. You can listen to the podcast here:

I think that the best way to understand this topic is to ask what the filibuster does. And what the filibuster does is it encourages debate, encourages across-the-aisle discussion and ensures that major bills achieve supermajorities—or at least something beyond a 51-49 split.

The House of Representatives doesn't have the filibuster and therefore has essentially no debate at all. A slight majority in the House, which is what we have now, can push through essentially anything the speaker wants, as long as she can keep her coalition intact. If you want to turn the Senate into that, that's what abolishing the filibuster would do. It would essentially let the party in power in the Senate push through whatever it wants.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill on November 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

The advocates of changing the current system essentially think we need to let the government do more. The people who oppose it think that if the government wants to do more, especially on big issues, it needs to have support beyond just a 50-50 split that the vice president can beat.

I had put the over/under [in this podcast] for people who support the filibuster to be called a "white supremacist" and "racist" at 20 seconds, but Tefere beat that—I think at 15 seconds. So now my question is: When the Democrats used the filibuster against the Republicans when Mitch McConnell was the majority leader—which they did many, many times—were they racist?

Charles Lipson is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Chicago.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.