The Filibuster Phooey

Thomas F Campenni
3 min readJan 18, 2022

The absurdity of the current form of the Senate filibuster has finally been laid bare for all to see.

If you believe in the sanctity of elections, then the majority should rule for as long as it can keep its majority. The argument of Sinema, Manchin, and most Republicans is that the filibuster, as currently used, can keep the majority from passing legislation to the detriment of the minority. That is ludicrous and turns the constitution on its head.

Madison’s idea for the Senate differed from what came to be. He saw that the Articles of Confederation had failed because the U.S. was not a national government but more closely resembled today’s United Nations. It was a place for unified action of the states, at times, if most states agreed.

Only once the New Jersey Plan was adopted by the Constitutional Convention, under which the senators would be chosen by state legislators, did Madison conceive of a different Senate with different powers. His original idea was that senators were elected directly by the voters (which at that time meant white property owners.)

Madison argued at the Convention against the Senate providing each state with equal representation of 2 senators regardless of population. He believed that would lead to a tyranny of the minority and that small states would control the destiny of the nation regardless of whether the majority of the people wanted it that way.

We now have the senate that the Founders agreed to as a compromise to create a new government in place of the Articles. The change to direct popular vote of senators instead of legislative appointment happened with the 17th amendment in the 20th century. However, the Senate is still undemocratic in the truest sense of the word.

Further elaboration about this can be found in my earlier articles on Medium regarding the 17th Amendment and the basic undemocratic Senate structure. What needs to be addressed is how the filibuster is being used to obstruct Democrat now but Republican Senate majorities in the future.

The basic premise for not changing the filibuster rule is that we cannot because when we are in the minority the majority can pass legislation. The underlying premise is that the will of the majority is suppressed so that deadlock is insured. Our government fails.

The Senate was once known as a deliberative body. No debate or deliberation is obvious to me today. And the C-Span speeches to empty chambers is neither debate nor deliberation. At one point, the Senate did debate ideas. That was firmly stopped with the “phone in” filibuster that we have today. When a senator wants to stop a bill or cabinet nomination, then he/she sends an email to the clerk placing a hold and that suffices.

It is time to change the rules to have more debate not less. Go back to when senators who were trying to stop something had to hold the floor and speak. Encourage both sides to have rigorous argument as to the pro and con of bills.

There are those who say the “silent” filibuster allows the Senate to go on with other business. Perhaps that was the original intent but today one senator objecting can render a bill or nomination unpassable. Process should not be what stops our national government from carrying out the majority from passing legislation or for senators to hide behind instead of taking a stand.

The founders did not place the 60-vote threshold for passage of most things. Madison wrote into the Constitution what should be subject to more than a majority vote (e.g., impeachment). The giants of the senate we have today, Schumer, McConnell, Cruz, and Durbin, are no match for “Little Jemmy Madison” as the author of the Constitution was known.

James Madison in Pinterest

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Thomas F Campenni

Currently lives in Stuart Florida and former City Commissioner. His career has been as a commercial real estate owner, broker and manager in New York City.