The Democrats in the US Senate recently detonated the “Nuclear Option”, killing the filibuster for all practical purposes, even if superficially only as to non-Supreme Court nominees.

Brown University student Zach Ingber thinks the act just killed the “soul of the Senate”.

…The nuclear option is also disastrous because it moves the American government, one based on the separation of powers, in a very parliamentarian direction. Most parliamentary systems operate with a “government” and an “opposition,” in which the government makes policy often with very little interaction with the opposition. Because the government coalition has the necessary number of seats to pass legislation, it usually does not work with the opposition in crafting policy.

By granting itself the authority to end debate with a simple majority, the Senate has removed the impetus to talk with the minority party. The U.S. government functions because of cooperation between the two parties, even in harshly partisan times, rather than in a government versus opposition mindset. Republicans’ repeated filibustering of executive branch nominees — such as Sen. Rand Paul’s, R-Ky., rant against drones and John Brennan’s nomination to run the Central Intelligence Agency — show that there needs to be more dialogue to address the rift between Republicans and Democrats over contentious matters.

We cannot forget that filibusters can often be used for things we, as Brown students, often view positively. Former Progressive Sen. Robert La Follette, who fought for economic equality and more “direct democracy,” often used the filibuster to draw attention to his policies. Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat and the legislator who valiantly filibustered restrictions on abortion rights, drew national attention to the policy debate, even though the bill was eventually enacted.

Brown is lucky to have one of the leading experts on the filibuster, Adjunct Lecturer in Political Science and Public Policy Richard Arenberg, on its faculty. Arenberg, in the title of a book he wrote, refers to the filibuster as “the soul of the Senate.” The Senate was designed, and the filibuster arose, to encourage thorough political discourse, rigorous debate, cross-party cooperation and slow deliberative action. Simply put, unlike the House, the core function of the Senate is to protect dissenting opinions from the tyranny of the majority.