Following an impassioned eulogy Thursday afternoon by President Barack Obama at the funeral of Congressman John Lewis in which the former president called for the end of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said he agrees it is now time to dispatch with the long held legislative tactic if it continues to forbid the kind of progress—specifically in the area of voting rights—the nation so desperately needs.
“President Obama is absolutely right,” said Sanders in a statement. “It is an outrage that modern-day poll taxes, gerrymandering, I.D. requirements, and other forms of voter suppression still exist today. We must pass a comprehensive agenda to guarantee the rights and dignity of everyone in this country. And that means, among other things, reauthorizing and expanding the Voting Rights Act, for which Congressman John Lewis put his life on the line. As President Obama said, if that requires us to eliminate the filibuster, then that is what we must do.”
In his remarks at Lewis’ funeral, Obama denounced the filibuster as a “Jim Crow relic” that has been used by Republicans to suppress rights of Black voters and thwart other essential legislation.
“Holy sh*t,” tweeted journalist and voting rights expert Ari Berman, “Obama just called the filibuster a ‘Jim crow relic’ and called for eliminating it if necessary.”
It’s not the first time Sanders has endorsed dispatching with the filibuster, even though he has also defended the ability of minority opinions to find voice in the Senate and famously delivered a nearly nine-hour filibuster speech on the floor in 2010 in an effort to block a bipartisan tax deal he warned was too beneficial to corporations and the wealthy.
As Common Dreams reported last year, Sanders expressed support for nixing “arcane” Senate rules—including, if necessary, the legislative filibuster—to pass key progressive policies like Medicare for All.
In 2013, Sanders called for filibuster reform that might end the obstruction but still allow for “talking filibusters” but end the mechanical maneuver that would allow a simple objection bring debate or passage to a halt.
“In the Senate we must protect minority rights and members should have as much time as they need to make their arguments but they must be willing to come to the Senate floor and make their case,” Sanders said at the time. “The Senate is supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body. Our rules must let us deliberate, not obstruct.”