Pizza & Politics: Filibuster

The Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service held its weekly Pizza & Politics event at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 13. Executive council members for the Leavitt Center Carson Brown and Ashley Cannon presented this week’s topic: The Filibuster.  

The use of filibusters is a senate tradition that allows senators to use unlimited speech in order to obstruct the passage of legislation. There is no time limit that restricts the longevity of a filibuster. Senators can speak for however long they like on any subject they prefer. 

The purpose of a filibuster is to stop all debate, work and business in the senate. This prevents bills, resolutions and appointments.

Brown opened the discussion to the audience when he asked for their opinions on the filibuster. 

“It depends on how it is used,” said Jacob Gunderson, a fellow for the Leavitt Center, “My biggest pet peeve is rushed legislation. One of the better uses of filibustering is that it postpones hasty legislation.”

“The filibuster should have been abolished a long time ago,” refuted Natalie Moore, an SUU junior. “It was not a part of the original design of the constitution and it is used only for political drama rather than politics.”

Cannon gave a detailed account of the use of filibusters throughout the history of the United States. She explained that filibusters were used more frequently in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At that point, the Senate was larger and busier.

The sheer amount of work to be done in each session meant that a filibustering senator could disrupt the progress of the body. The filibusters proved to be particularly useful to southern senators who sought to block civil rights legislation, including anti-lynching bills, Cannon explained.

“What would U.S. politics look like without the filibuster?” Cannon then asked. 

“We would see a lot more efficiency in passing legislation,” SUU senior Colton Smith said. “The filibuster gives the executive branch too much power which goes against the constitution.”

When there is filibustering in the senate, there is less debate on the floor which results in less compromise in passing legislation. As a result of this, presidents can take means into their own hands with executive orders. Smith further explained this in a second comment. 

Smith continued, “Because of this, we see presidents use executive orders to accomplish what the senate could not, such as Biden’s executive order for the vaccine mandate for large business employers and Trump’s executive orders at the border. 

However, the filibuster is a key component in balancing the power dynamic of the senate. If the filibuster is removed, the minority party would be disadvantaged because the party in the majority could pass more legislation regardless if the minority party disagreed. 

“Shifting the status quo by not having the filibuster could be dangerous for a lot of people,” refuted SUU freshman Andrew Erickson. “It’s what keeps the republic together by providing more protection for the senate minority.” 

The next Pizza and Politics event is Wednesday, Oct. 20 at noon. Members of the Leavitt Center will present on housing and will discuss with its audience members in room 112 of the Sharwan Smith Student Center. 

Article by: Danielle Meuret

Photos by: Anja Hayes