The Republican Party can almost certainly secure a majority in the the U.S. House of Representatives next year, because they hold majorities in the key state legislatures that will redraw the maps of each state’s congressional districts. The Democrats have a chance to stop this, if they can pass the For the People Act, which would require states to create independent commissions to draw these districts. The problem is, the Democrats have only 50 senators in the Senate, not the 60 necessary to overcome the filibuster, a parliamentary procedure used to block most legislation that can’t get 60 votes. The Democrats can simply vote to abolish the filibuster or to exclude it for individual bills. But one Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has repeatedly indicated that he will “never” vote to abolish the filibuster—and said on Wednesday that he wanted bipartisan support for election-related legislation. Could Manchin’s devotion to the filibuster end up handing control of the House to the Republicans in 2022?

According to Lee Drutman, a senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America, a think tank in Washington, D.C., that possibility is among the reasons why getting rid of the filibuster is such an imperative for American democracy. The institution is an anachronism, and it’s hard to justify requiring a supermajority of 60 percent of senators to approve even the most mundane pieces of legislation. Drutman says that the U.S. political system regularly gets stuck in gridlock because of the exceptional number of ways bills can be vetoed, whether by the majority party in either chamber, the president, or in any number of judicial reviews—or by a minority of senators.


Michael Bluhm: Could the Republicans really win control of the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections just by redrawing congressional districts—by gerrymandering—and enacting restrictive voting laws at the state level?

Lee Drutman: Probably, given that they control a number of large states like Florida and Texas. They don’t really need to gain that many seats in order to control the House [where the Democrats have a 219-211 advantage, with five upcoming special elections to decide the remaining seats]. The gerrymandering is going to have a far greater impact on control of the House than the voting laws.

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