Both Democrats and Republicans have 50 seats in the Senate in the United States Congress.
France Press agency
United States President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on the federal Senate to break away from a strongly entrenched parliamentary tradition, called “disruption,” to enforce his major electoral reform that seeks to protect minorities’ access to their vote.
What is “disable”?
For a long time, the US Senate did not specify the duration of debate on the bills. This possibility of obstruction allowed parliamentarians to prevent a text from being put to a vote. Then there was talk of “filibusterismo”, a word derived from the French word “filibustier”, because it is “piracy” closing the discussion.
Since 1917, senators can decide to stop the debate if they can gather enough votes. Today, 60 senators out of 100 are needed to vote on a bill.
In a Congress where Democrats and Republicans each have 50 seats, that absolute majority is nearly unattainable on sensitive issues, hampering most Biden’s proposed initiatives.
The rule does not apply to budget laws.
What alternatives are there?
Instead of completely abandoning the “stall” rule, Democrats are considering a “nuclear option” that would allow senators to vote exceptionally on broad electoral reform with a simple majority.
This option is so named because it brutally breaks with tradition, and plans to risk escalation with the next change of majority.
But to activate the “nuclear option,” Democrats need the support of their entire field. Many Democratic senators, including West Virginia Representative Joe Manchin, are skeptical.
The Republican opposition is rising up against any “stall” reform saying it will “break the Senate” and give Democrats excessive power.
However, in 2017, Republicans used the famous option to cut the number of votes needed to nominate lifetime Supreme Court justices to 51, infuriating Democrats. (I)