Democrat Senator Harry Reid is now pushing to remove the filibuster from the US Senate. This is referred to as, “The Nuclear Option.” He has enlisted the help of President Barack Obama in this endeavor.
Thus, we have the odd case of President Obama, a minority, telling us that Majority Rule is good for us.
Harry Reid did not always feel this way about the filibuster…
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): “As majority leader, I intend to run the Senate with respect for the rules and for the minority rights the rules protect. The Senate was not established to be efficient. Sometimes the rules get in the way of efficiency. The Senate was established to make sure that minorities are protected. Majorities can always protect themselves, but minorities cannot. That is what the Senate is all about. For more than 200 years, the rules of the Senate have protected the American people, and rightfully so. The need to muster 60 votes in order to terminate Senate debate naturally frustrates the majority and oftentimes the minority. I am sure it will frustrate me when I assume the office of majority leader in a few weeks. But I recognize this requirement is a tool that serves the long-term interest of the Senate and the American people and our country.”
Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.11591, 12/8/06)
For 200 years, we’ve had the right to extended debate. It’s not some “procedural gimmick.”
It’s within the vision of the Founding Fathers of our country. They
established a government so that no one person – and no single party –
could have total control.
Some in this Chamber want to throw out 217 years of Senate history in the quest for absolute power.
They want to do away with Mr. Smith coming to Washington.
They want to do away with the filibuster.
They think they are wiser than our Founding Fathers.
I doubt that’s true.
How does the filibuster help to protect the minority?
Because a majority can win a vote under majority rule, it has been commonly argued that majority rule can lead to a “tyranny of the majority”. Supermajoritarian rules, such as the three-fifths supermajority rule required to end a filibuster in the United States Senate, have been proposed as preventative measures of this problem. Other experts argue that this solution is questionable. Supermajority rules do not guarantee that it is a minority that will be protected by the supermajority rule; they only establish that one of two alternatives is the status quo, and privilege it against being overturned by a mere majority. To use the example of the US Senate, if a majority votes against cloture, then the filibuster will continue, even though a minority supports it. Anthony McGann argues that when there are multiple minorities and one is protected (or privileged) by the supermajority rule, there is no guarantee that the protected minority won’t be one that is already privileged, and if nothing else it will be the one that has the privilege of being aligned with the status quo.
Another way to safeguard against tyranny of the majority, it is argued, is to guarantee certain rights. Inalienable rights, including who can vote, which cannot be transgressed by a majority, can be decided beforehand as a separate act, by charter or constitution. Thereafter, any decision that unfairly targets a minority’s right could be said to be majoritarian, but would not be a legitimate example of a majority decision because it would violate the requirement for equal rights. In response, advocates of unfettered majority rule argue that because the procedure that privileges constitutional rights is generally some sort of supermajoritarian rule, this solution inherits whatever problems this rule would have. They also add the following: First, constitutional rights, being words on paper, cannot by themselves offer protection. Second, under some circumstances, the rights of one person cannot be guaranteed without making an imposition on someone else; as Anthony McGann wrote, “one man’s right to property in the antebellum South was another man’s slavery”. Finally, as Amartya Sen stated when presenting the liberal paradox, a proliferation of rights may make everyone worse off.
The fact that Barack Obama, an ethnic minority in America, is supporting the end of the filibuster in the US Senate is a very telling sign-post on what appears to be the road to, “A tyranny of the majority.”
May we have a moment of silence for The Rule of Law, Minority Rights, and the Constitutional Republic that we once had.
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