Obama: Filibuster makes it 'almost impossible' to govern

Former President Obama on Tuesday slammed the Senate's use of the filibuster, a tactic that requires 60 votes for any legislation to move forward that is often used to obstruct bills from proceeding. 

“The big challenge that we faced was the filibuster. And it’s a weird thing because it’s not something that the average American spends a lot of time thinking about,” Obama said on CNN's “Axe Files” podcast. “It, interestingly enough, doesn’t get talked about or examined much even by the pundits. It’s a given that this extra-constitutional thing that says you have to have 60 votes to get anything passed.”

“Adding the filibuster, I think, has made it almost impossible for us to effectively govern at a time when you have at least one party that is not willing to compromise on issues,” he added.

ADVERTISEMENT

The rule allows a senator or group of senators to speak for as long as they can as part of a debate on any piece of legislation until 60 senators decide to vote to bring the debate to a close.

The practice was used to impede the confirmation processes of several of Obama’s judicial nominees, according to Politifact

At Obama’s urging, Senate Democrats changed the rules so that any executive branch or judicial nominees, except for those for the Supreme Court, only needed a majority of the Senate to vote to be confirmed. Republicans adopted the same rule for Supreme Court nominees in 2017. 

Obama has long criticized the use of the filibuster, telling Vox in 2015, “I think that, in an era in which the parties are more polarized, it almost ensures greater gridlock and less clarity in terms of the positions of the parties. There's nothing in the Constitution that requires it ... The filibuster in this modern age probably just torques it too far in the direction of a majority party not being able to govern effectively and move forward its platform.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE has also been a frequent critic of the filibuster, tweeting in June, “Either we need to elect more Republicans in November or Republicans must end the ridiculous 60 vote, or Filibuster, rule - or better yet, do both. Cryin’ Chuck would do it on day one, but we’ll never give him the chance. Some great legislation awaits - be smart!” referring to Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down Trump ahead of New Hampshire speech: Lewandowski would be 'fantastic' senator MORE (D-N.Y.). 

He has frequently cited the rule as a reason he is unable to get immigration legislation, particularly funding for a border wall, passed in the Senate. However, ending the filibuster is opposed by several high-profile senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAre Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Churches are arming and training congregants in response to mass shootings: report MORE (R-Ky.).