UCS Joins Call to Eliminate Senate’s Filibuster Rule

Statement by Johanna Chao Kreilick, President, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jul 19, 2021

WASHINGTON (July 19, 2021)—The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) understands that just as science is needed to ensure that the public policy process is effective, a healthy and functioning democracy is needed to ensure that policies are just. As a member of the Declaration for American Democracy (DFAD) coalition, a group of more than 200 civil rights, labor, justice, faith, and environmental organizations, UCS has joined the call to end the Senate’s filibuster rule, choosing progress over stagnation and voter suppression.

Below is a statement by Johanna Chao Kreilick, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The filibuster has no Constitutional basis and was never intended to be a de facto supermajority requirement for the U.S. Senate to carry out its work—but that is exactly what it has become in practice, and as such it has become one of the major impediments to responsive, accountable, and democratic governance. Historically, the filibuster has often been deployed against civil rights legislation, including voting rights and anti-lynching bills. In 2009, it derailed climate legislation—this year, it has served to prevent a simple majority from passing popular, much-needed reforms to our voting system or investigating the violent attack on our democracy on Jan. 6 at the Capitol.

“Every scientist, engineer, and science advocate understands that design principles matter, and the same holds for the design of political institutions. If the theoretical purpose of the filibuster is to create bipartisan consensus, it has clearly failed on its own terms. Our opposition to the filibuster, and principled stance to abolish, is both science-based and evidence-backed; by privileging a minority that supports the status quo and election subversion, the filibuster distorts the policymaking process and inhibits our capacity to address the country’s most pressing challenges—from climate change to safeguarding our democracy. The increasingly routine use of the filibuster in recent years has come with exacerbated political polarization, gridlock, and dysfunction. Moreover, the inequity it creates in favor of established interests sustains political and social injustices that cannot be addressed without ending this procedural political tactic.

“To create fair and effective policies, we need a healthy, democratic process that reflects the participation of all voters, answers their concerns, and holds elected officials accountable. It’s clear that the filibuster has become not just an occasional procedural tool, but a roadblock to responsible governance of any kind.”