All About the Filibuster

What is the filibuster?

The filibuster is a parliamentary tactic used to delay action on a legislative bill by talking a great length. The use of this tactic dates back to the Roman Senate which required all business be concluded by nightfall, and there are recorded instances of senator Cato the Younger speaking about a subject in question until dark in order to delay a vote.

In the US Senate, a Senator could filibuster by talking or reading about anything he or she desires for as long as they desire and can stay standing. In 1917 the Senate passed the Cloture rule to limit consideration of a pending proposal to thirty hours and a two-thirds majority vote in order to end a filibuster. In 1975 the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths of all senators duly chosen and sworn, or 60 of the 100-member Senate.

The filibuster is considered a “veto” measure in which a minority or an individual can block the majority. Ideally these measures are reserved for issues in which rights or fundamental interests are in danger by the majority. 

The filibuster is not included in the US Constitution.

How does the filibuster threaten voting rights?

There are two pieces of voting rights legislation currently pending in the Senate: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. These voting rights laws would enable more Americans to participate in our democracy with greater ease and equality. Those interested in the filibustering of these laws are the politicians who can’t win elections under these fair and equitable conditions.

Some laws are exempt from filibuster including budget reconciliation, trade promotion authority, the Congressional Review Act, the National Emergencies ActWar Powers Resolution, confirmations of executive branch nominees and judicial nominees, and the debt ceiling. We can protect voting rights by adding them to this list of filibuster exemptions.

Take Action to Protect Voting Rights against the Filibuster

Contact your Senators as well as Senators CollinsManchinMurkowskiPortman and Sinema and urge them to protect American democracy by protecting voter rights. Let them know: “NO FILIBUSTER FOR VOTING RIGHTS.”

Find out how to reach your Senators by calling 1-202-224-3121 or by visiting www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm.