“The legislative filibuster is the most important distinction between the Senate and the House of Representatives,” said one of my colleagues a few years ago. “Without the 60-vote threshold for legislation, the Senate becomes a majority institution, just like the House, which is much more exposed to the winds of short-term election changes. No senator would like to see that. “
That was Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in April 2017.
When President Trump urged Republicans to kill the filibuster, our Democratic counterparts cried badly. When our Republican majority stood by principle and refused to break the rules, our Democratic counterparts happily used the filibuster themselves. In some cases, they blocked laws like Senator Tim Scott’s Police Reform Act. In other cases, they just did what minority parties always did – they used the very existence of the filibuster to influence legislation that absolutely needed to be passed long before it went down.
So much emphasis is placed on the most extreme laws any party could pass by simple majority that people forget the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. This is the only reason any routine legislation that is imperative to pass is bipartisan when the government is united. Big finance deals, appropriation bills, farm bills, highway bills, the defense clearance bill – Senate Rule 22’s 60-vote threshold stops it all.
The Senate Democrats, who are pressuring our Arizona and West Virginia colleagues to reverse their commitments, advocate a radically less stable and less consensus-based system of government. Nothing in federal law would ever be regulated. Some liberal activists may want that, but does anyone believe that by voting, the American people voted for an entirely new system of government?
to the White House, a tight majority and a 50:50 Senate?
Some Democratic senators seem to imagine that breaking the rules would be a decent compromise for a wafer-thin majority. Sure, it could harm the institution, but then nothing would stand between them and their entire agenda, a new era of fast-paced policymaking. But anyone who really knows the Senate knows that wouldn’t happen.
No one serving in this chamber can imagine what a completely scorched Senate would look like. Neither of us served for a minute in the Senate completely exempt from compassion and approval. This is an institution that needs unanimous approval to turn on the lights before noon, proceed with a speech on the ground of garden diversity, refrain from reading lengthy legislative texts, plan business with committees and even undisputed candidates faster than a to move snail’s pace.
Imagine a world where every single task requires a physical quorum of 51 senators – and the vice president doesn’t count, by the way. Everything the Democratic Senate did to Presidents Bush and Trump, everything the Republican Senate did to President Obama would be a no-brainer compared to the disaster the Democrats would create for their own priorities if they broke the Senate . Even the most mundane tasks of our Chamber – and therefore of Biden’s presidency – would be much more difficult and not easier in a 50:50 post-nuclear Senate.
If the Democrats break the rules to kill rule 22 on a 50:50 basis, we’ll use any other rule to get tens of millions of American votes to be heard. Perhaps the majority would come in turn according to the other rules. Perhaps rule 22 would be just the first of many to fall until the Senate stopped being any different from the House.
Even so, the process would be long and arduous. This chaos would not open an expressway for the Biden Presidency to enter the history books. The Senate would be more like a bunch of 100 cars – nothing that moves when Gawkers are watching.
And then there is the little problem that majorities are never permanent. The last time a Democratic majority leader tried to start a nuclear exchange – Harry Reid in 2013 – I warned him. I said my co-workers would regret it much sooner than they thought. A few years and several posts in the Supreme Court later, many of our Democratic colleagues publicly admitted that they had done so.
If the Democrats kill the legislative filibuster, history would repeat itself, but more dramatically. Once the Republicans were back in control, we wouldn’t stop erasing any liberal change that was harming the country. We would empower America with all kinds of conservative policies without the other side contributing.
How about a nationwide right to work? Defuse planned parenting and protection cities on the first day? A whole new era of domestic energy generation. Take new safeguards for the unborn child’s conscience and right to life? Reciprocal reciprocity in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Massive hardening of security on our southern border?
Even now, on amendments, we saw days ago that certain sensible Republican positions in the current Senate enjoy more support than some of the priorities of the Democratic Committee Chairs – and that is the majority of them.
The pendulum would swing both ways and it would swing hard.
My Republican colleagues and I refused to kill the Senate for the instant gratification. In 2017 and 2018, a seated president advocated doing exactly what the Democrats want to do now. I agreed with many of his political goals but said no. Becoming a U.S. Senator involves greater responsibilities than overcoming an obstacle to short-term power.
Less than two months ago, two of our Democratic colleagues said they understand. If they keep their word, we will have a bipartisan majority that can put principle first and save the Senate.
Mr. McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, is the Senate Minority Leader. This article is from a speech on Tuesday.
Main Street: For criticizing HR1 as an “unconstitutional takeover”, Mike Pence is accused of telling Donald Trump’s “big lie”. Images: AFP via Getty Images / AP Composite: Mark Kelly
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