How the Filibuster Has Hurt Workers and Protected Corporate Influence

January 14, 2021

The filibuster has become a routine fixture in the United States Senate over the last several decades, effectively creating a 60-vote threshold for passage of most major legislation.


But the founders did not intend for the filibuster to exist at all. Rather, the procedural tool was inadvertently created through a loophole when the Senate simplified its rulebook in the early 19th century. While the filibuster is often erroneously mythologized as a crucial tool encouraging debate and deliberation, it is more frequently wielded to obstruct the legislative process, and disproportionately used to hinder progressive economic policymaking.

 In “How the Filibuster Has Hurt Workers and Protected Corporate Influence,” Emily DiVito examines the nearly 700 failed cloture votes since 1947, and identifies a set of bills—aimed at boosting worker power or checking corporate misconduct—that would likely have passed if not for the filibuster. While historical practice is not necessarily indicative of the future, this analysis suggests that in the years ahead, the filibuster will continue to block progressive policies intended to empower American workers.

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