Filibuster is critical if country is to maintain compromise, expert says

Feb 3, 2023, 8:30 PM

Martin Gold, a visiting scholar with the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, says the Filibuster is critical...

Martin Gold, a visiting scholar with the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, says the Filibuster is critical if the nation wants to maintain bipartisanship and compromise, (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Over the last few years, a lot of people have wanted to do away with the filibuster. However, a new report from the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation has discovered that the filibuster is vital if government leaders want to keep compromise and bipartisanship.

Martin Gold, a visiting scholar to the foundation, and author of the report joined Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson on Friday to talk filibusters.

Matheson said, “You’ve looked at this and, in this report, really have gone back historically. In terms of what, where it really began, and why it’s so important. Give us a broad brush to begin with.”

Filibuster has been around for a long time

Gold says the filibuster in the Senate has been active in legislative matters for roughly 180 years. 

“It began in the 1840s,” he said. “(It) continued through the balance of the 19th century into the early 20th century. And even when procedure was added in 1917, called the Closure Process, as a mechanism to bring filibuster to a close. Still, filibusters continued and continued into the present day on all manner of policy issues.”

He says the filibuster is an exercise of minority rights in the Senate. It’s used as a way of not only extending debate but also as a way of leveraging.  

Matheson adds, “Regardless of who’s in power, it goes back and forth.” 

Matheson continues by saying that the filibuster leads us to the integrity of compromise. He asks Gold for a different perspective on that.

“A different perspective would be that it’s essential for a compromise,” Gold said. “The right of debate and the right of amendment, the right of compromise. They need to reach across the aisle. It’s all inextricably intertwined.” 

Never a need to negotiate

Gold says by getting rid of the filibuster, the majority party would never need to negotiate. The majority party could simply adopt the amendments it wanted or write the bills it wanted. 

“But that would radically change the Senate as an institution,” Gold said. 

Matheson references a report from Newsweek. In that report, it states the absence of the filibuster would create more division and polarization. 

“Explain that to us,” Matheson said.

“It creates more polarization because if the party that’s in the majority can do simply what it wants,” Gold said. “It will be, I think, susceptible to very strong demands from the party base, right?”

He says the more extreme demands of the party will be given sway because there will be no need to compromise. There will be no need to account for the minority and no need to push back on those demands. 

“You just give in to those demands,” Gold said. 

Extreme policies rule without the filibuster

Gold further states that without a tempering influence (the influence of the filibuster), you’re going to have policies on either the extreme right or extreme left. 

Gold says to get almost anything done in the Senate, you’ve got to have 60 votes. That means you’ve got to be willing to work across party lines as well as within your own party.

“The need to get 60 votes is leverage for all of that to happen,” he said. “And if you don’t have that leverage, that will further empower the party leadership. And it will mean that the majority will run roughshod over the minority.”

Matheson concludes the conversation by saying “It is a feature, not a flaw.”

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app. 

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Filibuster is critical if country is to maintain compromise, expert says