One significant potential convert on filibuster reform is Sen. Chris Coons. Coons is not only a centrist Democrat, he’s a close ally of Joe Biden and a longtime champion of the filibuster.
“I will not stand idly by for four years and watch the Biden administration’s initiatives blocked at every turn,” Coons told Politico recently. “I am gonna try really hard to find a path forward that doesn’t require removing what’s left of the structural guardrails, but if there’s a Biden administration, it will be inheriting a mess, at home and abroad. It requires urgent and effective action.”
Also significant: Democratic Senate candidates in states central to the push to win back the Senate say they’re open to reform. In Colorado, John Hickenlooper would “listen to any rule change” and Andrew Romanoff supports eliminating the filibuster. In Maine, a spokeswoman for Sara Gideon said Gideon “supports getting rid of the filibuster so the Senate can function more productively and make a real difference for Mainers.” Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, now running for Senate, is also on board.
While the filibuster’s supporters tend to refer to it as an unchanging part of the Senate and of American democracy, the reality is that it was never intended for the kind of constant use it’s gotten in recent years. “From 1917, when the cloture rule was put in place, to 1970, there were fewer than 60 cloture motions; the most notable filibusters where those blocking civil rights legislation,” the Center for American Progress reports. “Between 1970 and 2000, cloture votes increased to an average of about 17 per year. Finally, starting in the 2000s, minority parties in the Senate began to routinely filibuster substantive legislation proposed by the other party. During this period, from 2000 to 2018, an average of 53 cloture votes were held every year, with a continuing trend upward.”
Any meaningful reform will be a tough lift because if Democrats win the Senate it will be by a narrow margin, and some Democrats remain outspokenly in favor of gridlock. But the momentum is in the right direction. David Nir has created a filibuster whip list to help you keep track of where Senate Democrats stand.