Evelyn Hockstein via Reuters
UNITED STATES – The American president called on Tuesday, January 11, the American Senate to bypass a firmly established tradition, called “filibuster”, to force through his major electoral reform.
What does this parliamentary rule consist of that Joe Biden plans to dismantle in order to protect the access to the vote of minorities in the face of attacks from Republicans? We explain this in detail below.
For a long time, the US Senate did not impose a limit on the length of debate on its bills. This possibility of obstruction allowed parliamentarians to prevent a text from being put to a vote. We then spoke of “filibuster”, a word derived from the French “flibustier”, since they “pirated” the closure of the debates.
Since 1917, senators can decide to stop these debates, provided they collect enough votes. Today, 60 senators out of 100 are needed for the bill to be put to a vote. However, in a Congress where Democrats and Republicans each have 50 seats, this supermajority is almost unattainable on the most sensitive subjects, which, since the start of Joe Biden’s mandate, has blocked most of his initiatives.
“To protect democracy, I support any change in the rules of the Senate, whatever it is,” the US president said on Tuesday.
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Rather than abandoning the “filibuster” rule entirely, Democrats are considering triggering a “nuclear option,” which would allow senators to exceptionally vote the president’s vast electoral reform by a simple majority.
This option is thus nicknamed because it breaks brutally with the tradition, raising the risk of an escalation during the next change of majority.
To trigger the “nuclear option”, however, Democrats need the support of their entire camp. However, several Democratic senators, including West Virginia elected official Joe Manchin, have already expressed their skepticism.
The Republican opposition is standing up against any reform of the “filibuster”, assuring that this would amount to “breaking the Senate” and giving the Democrats inordinate power.
In 2017, the Republicans had yet used this famous option to lower the threshold to 51 votes for life appointments to the Supreme Court, causing an outcry among the Democrats.
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