Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo credits left to right: Scott Olson/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images; Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As 2020 Democratic candidates campaign for sweeping changes to the tax system, immigration, health care, gun control and corruption, a few candidates have suggested that, if elected, they would direct their Senate allies to abolish the filibuster, a tactic used by senators to delay or block legislative action.

The big picture: Regardless of a candidate's stance on filibusters, the Senate makes its own rules at the discretion of the majority party. Democrats would have to win back the Senate to ban filibusters.

  • Specifically, Democrats — who currently hold 45 Senate seats and caucus with two independent members to bring their total to 47 — would have to win at least four Senate seats in 2020 to constitute the simple majority necessary to change the chamber's rules.
  • Alternatively, Democrats can claim a simple majority if they pick up three Senate seats and the White House, using the vice president to break tie votes.

How filibusters work: Filibusters are possible in the Senate because of its tradition of allowing unlimited time for debate for most legislative actions. In general, these privileges empower the minority party of the chamber.

  • Any senator, once recognized by the presiding officer during debate, can speak for as long as he or she wishes and can offer any amendment or motion to the matter under consideration.
  • Senators can only limit debate by invoking "cloture," which ends debate and allows a final vote. It normally takes 60 votes — or a three-fifths supermajority — to establish cloture. But there are two ways senators can filibuster a cloture vote.
  • An "individual" filibuster occurs when a single senator holds the floor and speaks for a long period of time. However, these filibusters are normally unsuccessful at blocking legislative action because senators can hold a cloture vote after their exhausted colleague inevitably relinquishes the floor.
  • A "silent" filibuster happens when at least 41 senators tell the majority leader that they oppose a matter under consideration. 41 is a key number because that group of senators will vote against ending debate if the body holds a cloture vote. This prevents a vote on the matter under consideration, effectively killing it.
  • As a result of the silent filibuster, requiring 60 votes to end debate has now become necessary to pass a lot of legislation.

How the Senate could remove filibusters: If the Democrats attained a simple majority in the 2020 elections, they could decrease the number of votes needed to invoke cloture on all legislative matters to a simple majority of 51 votes.

  • Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his fellow Democrats in 2013 reduced the necessary votes needed to enact cloture to 51 votes for confirming lower court federal judicial nominees and executive-office appointments.
  • Reducing the number of votes needed to enact cloture to a simple majority is also known as the "nuclear option."
Where the candidates stand

President Trump: Trump in the past supported ending filibusters, but his position is less certain now as the GOP's optimism for holding the Senate darkens.

Former Vice President Joe Biden: It is also unclear whether Biden would support abolishing filibusters, but he has experience using them during his time in the Senate and avoiding them during his vice presidency.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Warren endorsed ending the filibuster early in her campaign, saying the parties have used the tactic to block progressive reforms for generations.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Sanders has rejected ending filibusters, but also said the 60-vote threshold to end cloture wouldn't prevent his administration from enacting its agenda.

  • Instead, he said his administration and congressional allies could pass policies by attaching them to budget reconciliation bills, which cannot be filibustered by the minority party, according to Senate rules.
  • But reconciliation bills are limited to matters that affect the budget by adding to or reducing federal spending. Regulatory changes cannot be passed through reconciliation.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Buttigieg said his administration would consider abolishing filibusters "because our sense of fair play among Democrats has bitten us far too many times for us to be naive about it." But he ultimately said it is up to senators to eliminate the tactic.

Sen. Kamala Harris: Harris said she would first try working with Senate Republicans to combat climate change if elected, but she would support abolishing filibusters if they prevent climate change legislation.

Sen. Cory Booker: Booker said he is hesitant about reducing the strength of the minority party in the Senate by eliminating filibusters. "I think it is good to have the power of the filibuster," he said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: It is unclear how Klobuchar feels about filibusters, but in 2017, she said she regretted that Democrats eliminated the 60-vote threshold to approve judicial nominees. That year, Klobuchar also signed a bipartisan letter supporting filibusters.

Former tech executive Andrew Yang: Yang has promised that his administration would advocate for eliminating filibusters, saying their absence would create "a flexible government that can get things done."

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro: Castro told The Atlantic that he advocates eliminating filibusters, saying if elected, he would rather pass universal health care legislation than preserve "a Senate rule that is not in the Constitution and has already been violated many times."

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: It is unclear where Gabbard stands on filibusters. She has said there are pros and cons of eliminating it, but she has not given a definitive answer.

Former Rep. John Delaney: Delaney told the Washington Post, "If we want to pass long-lasting, meaningful legislation, it should be done with a 60-vote majority."

Author Marianne Williamson: Williamson told the Post that she does not believe the Senate can function if legislation requires a three-fifths supermajority to pass, but she said simple filibusters should remain a symbolic tool of opposition.

The bottom line: Revoking the Senate's long-standing 60-vote threshold would significantly limit the minority party's power in the chamber, but it will remain as long as the majority in the chamber supports filibusters.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona GOP's private recount of 2020 election confirms Biden's win

Contractors working on behalf of the GOP examine and recount 2020 ballots at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix in May. Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

In an odd coda to the 2020 election, private contractors conducting a GOP-commissioned recount in Arizona confirmed President Biden’s win in Maricopa County.

Why it matters: The unofficial, party-driven recount has been heavily covered on cable news as part of former President Trump's continued effort to sow doubt about the election result.

Del Rio bridge camp empty following Haitian migrant surge

A boy bathes himself in a jug of water inside a migrant camp at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sept. 21 in Del Rio, Texas. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The last migrants camping under the Del Rio International Bridge, which connects Texas and Mexico, departed on Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced during a White House press briefing.

Driving the news: Thousands of migrants, mostly from Haiti, had arrived to the makeshift camp after crossing the southern border seeking asylum. Roughly 1,800 migrants will now head to U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing centers.

White House says it expects federal contractors to be vaccinated by Dec. 8

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House said in new guidance Friday that it expects millions of federal contractors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus no later than Dec. 8.

Why it matters: Companies with federal contractors have been waiting for formal guidance from the White House before requiring those employees to get vaccinated, according to Reuters.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!