By Stephen J. DiGianfilippo
The legislative filibuster protects the minority and forces compromise so that wide-ranging legislation receives 60 percent support rather than 49 percent opposition. It also helps preserve hard-fought legislative victories from being overturned by a simple change in power which often reflects nothing more than dissatisfaction with those in power.
The filibuster has often been abused. However, it also stands as a bulwark against repealing civil rights legislation as well as New Deal-like legislation concerning, among other things, the environment and workplace rights.
A Democrat Senate majority repealed the filibuster for judicial appointments. When the majority later shifted to the Republicans, this move ultimately enabled the confirmation of judges who are more conservative than would have been possible without the judicial filibuster repeal.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and other Democrat Senate members therefore should stop complaining about the rightward shift of the federal judiciary and start taking responsibility for it. More importantly, Democrat Senate members should learn from their previous mistake: The short-term gain offered by the initial repeal of the judicial filibuster has led to long-term judicial pain for the left.
And the same will happen if Democrats repeal the Senate legislative filibuster: While it may allow passage of their legislative priorities on a bare majority vote, when power shifts (as it eventually will) Republicans can just as easily repeal that legislation along with other, more widely-accepted legal protections.
Stephen J. DiGianfilippo lives in East Greenwich and is a practicing attorney in Providence.