The PA Chamber of Business and Industry today opposed President Joe Biden’s support for efforts to undermine minority party rights in the U.S. Senate by weakening the filibuster. The long-standing filibuster rule generally requires legislation to garner 60 votes in order to advance in the U.S. Senate, which is currently divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.
“Weakening or modifying the legislative filibuster creates a dangerous precedent,” said PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr. “The filibuster is a defining feature of the Senate legislative process and allowing it to be set aside for even one issue weakens the institution.”
Protecting minority party rights and rules like the filibuster has historically been a bipartisan priority, and for good reason: a party serving in the majority may have the power to curtail minority party rights but recognizes they will someday rely on those rights when the power dynamic shifts. Weakening the filibuster, even for a limited purpose, could lead to its eventual elimination.
In April 2017, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey signed a bipartisan letter urging preservation of “existing rules, practices, and traditions” and pushed back on calls to eliminate or weaken the filibuster. The group opposed “any effort to curtail the existing rights and prerogatives of Senators to engage in full, robust, and extended debate as we consider legislation before this body in the future.”
Last year, the PA Chamber and local chambers of commerce from across Pennsylvania voiced their opposition to the prospects of rule changes in the U.S. Senate that would weaken or eliminate the filibuster. In doing so, they cited that protecting these rights was a bipartisan priority.
“Republicans controlled the White House, U.S. Senate and U.S. House in 2017; and while some urged filibuster reform to benefit the business community, we did not support that option, recognizing the long-term harm,” Barr said. “A defining principle of the U.S. Senate is the ability for Senators to engage in an extended debate, which helps facilitate compromise and moderation. This principle should be dismissed for the purpose of political expediency.”