Mitch McConnell and the Filibuster
McConnell is being very short sighted in his objection to the talking filibuster
Mitch McConnell is at it again. And making himself look foolish again. Now it’s the filibuster.
Just a brief recap. When the Democrats gained a slim majority in the Senate, they knew that their majority would be useless because the Republicans would filibuster every piece of legislation that they introduced. So they quite logically decided that it was time to get rid of the filibuster.
The filibuster, by the way, is a rule that the Senate passed in 1806. It’s not in the Constitution. So it would be easy to repeal.
Trying to repeal it didn’t work out because Democrats didn’t have the support of all 50 of their members or the backing of President Biden. Biden, who represented Delaware in the Senate for 36 years, was loathe to change any Senate rules. And of course the Republicans were positively howling their objections.
The Democrats then turned their attention to getting Biden’s rescue package through both Houses using budget reconciliation which allowed them to get it through the Senate with their slim majority, no filibustering allowed.
Now that they have succeeded in that, they are looking at all the other legislation that is on Biden’s and their wishlist and realize that not a single piece will pass thanks to the Republicans and the filibuster. Or at least the threat of a filibuster.
Have you noticed that no one has actually filibustered lately? You know, gotten up and talked and talked and talked for hours on end? That’s because modern filibusters are just threats. All an opponent to a piece of legislation has to do is register their objection to it implying the threat of a filibuster and the opposite party scurries around to try and drum up those ten extra votes that they need to end the threat of a filibuster and pass the legislation.
Actual filibustering is terribly inconvenient and time-consuming. Besides, have you looked at the average age of the Senate? No way that those senior citizens would be able to stand at a lectern and talk for hours.
It just makes a weird kind of sense to skip the talking part and get to the heart of the matter which is forcing the party trying to pass legislation to round up 60 votes instead of the normal 51 vote majority.
Getting back to the topic at hand, the Democrats have come up with an ingenious solution: force anyone who wants to filibuster a piece of legislation to actually filibuster i.e. stand up in front of the Senate and talk. They have dubbed it the “talking filibuster.”
Makes sense, right? Even Biden thinks that it’s a good idea and has endorsed it.
Well, good ol’ Mitch is threatening “scorched earth” if the Democrats change the rules to force the use of talking filibusters.
“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, can even begin, to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like. It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books. The Senate would be more like a 100-car pileup, nothing moving.”
Translated from Mitchese, that means that he is threatening to end unanimous consent. Unanimous consent is used on motions, debates and votes allowing them to pass without being voted on if no senators object. Without it, the Senate would grind to a halt if Mitch and his merry band of pranksters refused to consent to anything.
Which is pretty much where we are now. The Senate has been deadlocked for years. Other than executive and judicial appointments which require simple majority votes, nothing else is being passed.
Sorry Mitch, but scorched earth is kind of an empty threat. You know what you look like? An old guy yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off of his lawn.
Now here’s the kicker. Do you know why executive and judicial appointments require simple majority votes and can’t be filibustered? Because of what’s known as the nuclear option.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Well, for Mitch and Co., it is scary because the nuclear option allows the Senate to pass with a simple majority vote a change to the filibuster rule to exclude a particular situation such as executive and judicial appointments.
The Democrats could use their razor thin majority to exercise the nuclear option to get Biden’s agenda passed in the Senate with simple majority votes. And there wouldn’t be anything that the Republicans could do about it.
I think that Mitch is being very short-sighted. He needs to take the long view, like all the way to the 2022 midterms. Republicans are hoping to retake the House and the Senate and if they do, well, that whole nuclear option thing and talking filibuster thing would then work to their advantage in getting their legislation passed despite the objections of the minority Democrats.
See? It works both ways, Mitch. Anything that the Democrats pass now, you can undo in two years when you hold the majority. And if you don’t win the 2022 midterms, there are more elections in 2024.
Nothing is permanent. Except death and taxes. And we’ll talk about taxes another day.
In the meantime, I really think that you should consider retirement. You are becoming less and less effective as a leader. Do the right thing and step aside. Allow the Republicans to choose another leader who will be more effective in advancing their agenda.