Four Myths about the Filibuster

Brian Darling /

There are four myths about the filibuster that you will hear over and over again. These myths are needed to justify any attempt to change the Senate’s rules with a simple majority vote. This is a power grab, pure and simple.

The fact of the matter is that the explicit words of the Constitution, the Senate’s written rules, and the history of the Senate show that the filibuster was created for good reason. Extended debate and unlimited amendment is part of the fabric of the institution.

Myth #1: The filibuster is unconstitutional.

The Constitution empowers the House and Senate to establish rules of procedure. Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution states that “each house may determine the rule of its proceedings.” This provision in the Constitution empowers the Senate to make rules governing debate. The Senate in 1917 established the cloture rule requiring a two-thirds vote of all Senators present to shut down debate. Senate Rule 22 today states that “invoking cloture on a proposal to amend the Senate’s standing rules requires the support of two-thirds of the Senators present and voting.” The clear letter of the Senate’s rules mandate a supermajority vote to shut down debate on any change to the Senate’s rules. (more…)