Catholic Sisters: Eliminate the Filibuster, a Jim Crow-Era Relic Blocking Democracy Reform

For Immediate Release: March 16, 2021
Contact: Lee Morrow, [email protected], 202-601-7856

Catholic Sisters: Eliminate the Filibuster, a Jim Crow-Era Relic Blocking Democracy Reform
Sr. Simone: The filibuster is a Jim Crow-era relic stopping a Senate majority from ending Jim Crow-style voting restrictions.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After years of obstruction that have left the Senate unable to pass legislation that can protect the vulnerable and respond to the needs of our people, the Catholic Sisters and activists of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice have called for the elimination of the Senate filibuster. This Jim Crow-era relic has blocked democracy reform, civil rights protections, and health care expansion for far too long. It is the duty of all legislators to end systemic racism, and antiquated Jim Crow-era traditions steeped in a racist past must not stop progress any longer.

The filibuster’s racist past is clear. In the second half of the 19th century, white Southern Senators used the filibuster to kill Reconstruction and the earliest civil rights bills, maintaining the existing racial hierarchy. In the early 20th century, Senators used it again to block anti-lynching bills, sanctioning racial violence and terror against Black Americans. And in the Civil Rights Era, Senators again employed the filibuster to prevent the passage of desegregation and voting rights legislation for years.

In the last decade, Senate Republicans usage of the filibuster has exploded to stop common good legislation. Today, the Republican Party uses the filibuster to block every piece of legislation that it can to benefit themselves and their wealthy donors, regardless of a bill’s support from voters. And yet again, the filibuster is being used to uphold white supremacy and block civil rights legislation, like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. At the same time, Senate Republicans have conveniently carved out exceptions to the filibuster for topics that they are interested in: nominations and budget decisions.

The Senate has an important opportunity to end this racist legacy. The For the People Act is bold, bipartisan democracy reform that will end voter disenfranchisement and bolster our electoral system. At a time of low confidence in the honesty of our elections, this bill has majority support from Republican, Democratic, and independent voters. Yet, Republican Senators are already preparing to follow the example of Jim Crow-era obstructionists and use the filibuster to block voting rights legislation. The filibuster is not protecting voters in the minority party; it protects political elites set on preserving the status quo. We cannot allow partisan Senators to block nationally bipartisan legislation.

Catholic Sisters and advocates do not accept antiquated traditions steeped in a racist past that continue to prevent progress. Starting today, NETWORK’s Catholic activists across the country will organize and take action against any Senator who supports the filibuster’s ability to block the For the People Act and other needed legislation.

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice:

“The filibuster is a Jim Crow-era relic stopping a Senate majority from ending Jim Crow-style voting restrictions. The filibuster protects and enforces systemic racism. Catholic teaching is clear: Racism is a sin that all Catholics must work to end.

“The Senate filibuster has been used to deny our voting rights, keep people in poverty, and allow vulnerable families to go hungry and be denied health care. We are called to reject systems that uphold inequity. Instead, Republican Senators have happily followed the playbook of Jim Crow-era obstructionists by weaponizing the filibuster against We the People. This is unacceptable, immoral, and irresponsible. Catholics will organize against any Senator who upholds the filibuster at the expense of the needs of vulnerable Americans.”

Sister Quincy Howard, OP, Government Relations Advocate of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice:

“The Senate has become hardhearted to the cries of vulnerable Americans and allowed antiquated rules to block all progress. But this is no accident. Republican obstructionists led by Senator Mitch McConnell exploit the filibuster to block all common good legislation, including the hugely popular, desperately needed democracy reforms of the For the People Act.

“The term for this rule, adopted in the 19th century, is telling: The word filibuster comes from the Dutch word for piracy. A rule that allows a minority of Senators to commandeer control at the expense of all others is a kind of procedural looting.

“For centuries, these filibustering pirates have plundered the God-given liberties of our Black and brown sisters and brothers. This reinforcement of systemic racism cannot stand and must not be used to prevent the passage of the For the People Act. By embracing this bipartisan legislation, we can save the future of our democracy.”


NETWORK, a national Catholic Social Justice lobby, which educates, organizes, and lobbies for economic and social transformation, has a nearly 50-year track record of lobbying for critical federal programs that support those at the margins and prioritize the common good.