All the Lies They Told Us About the Filibuster

All the Lies They Told Us About the Filibuster

On July 28, 2017, John McCain held the fate of the Affordable Care Act in his hands as he headed to the Senate well to cast what everybody expected would be the decisive 50th vote to repeal the most ambitious piece of social legislation that had been enacted since the Great Society. When he first ran for president, McCain had confessed plainly to me that he had barely given health-care policy much thought. He had done little to educate himself since, and Obamacare was not among the pet issues where he departed from party orthodoxy. Yet McCain seemed to decide this would be his moment to strike back at Donald Trump, or etch into stone his reputation for independence, and killed repeal by turning his thumb down and keeping the law in place. The drama of this little set piece, and the relief among liberals at its result, has obscured a larger question hanging over that vote — one that might have consumed them had McCain’s thumb turned the other way, and which is now the Democratic Party’s most pressing dilemma. How was it acceptable that a law that had required a 60-vote supermajority to pass the Senate could be wiped out with just 50 votes? Why would liberals or moderates accept the existence of a system that makes complex legislation almost impossible to build, yet easy to destroy? Who would ever design a system like this? The answer is that nobody did. The Senate filibuster was not part […]

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