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Trump Vs. McConnell – Kill The Filibuster?

by Jefferson B. Thomas (Principles: No Tyranny) - 1 year ago

Until now, the Senate filibuster was the friend of Conservatives. Now it's their enemy. Trump thinks Democrats will kill it the first chance they get. Should Republicans kill it now?

Don’t let the media fool you about why the Republicans were not able to repeal and replace Obamacare. The reason was the ancient accident, invented by Aaron Burr, known as the Senate Filibuster.

Yes, I’m well aware that the Republicans in the Senate could not get 50 votes for any of their proposals but the reason is that they were hamstrung from the beginning by the threat of a filibuster. Under the Senate rules, only certain types of laws can be passed with 51 votes and a comprehensive health care bill was not one of them. For example, Trump’s plan to sell insurance across state lines needed 60 votes. The Republican’s long-standing goal of cutting the cost of malpractice insurance by limiting jury awards – again, needed 60 votes. The Senate rules, in fact, prohibit anything that does not directly affect the federal budget from even being considered unless 60 Senators agree.

Without the ability to even debate a complete replacement package, the Republicans determined that their best hope was to first destroy our health care system and then force Democrats to help them rebuild it. This is why their bills had to be developed in secret and rushed to a vote. They hoped to get something (anything?) passed before the public recognized the dangerous two-step that was happening. The Congressional Budget Office, however, got in the way of that plan by clearly stating the havoc, measured in human lives, that these “half-laws” would cause.  In the end, John McCain’s dramatic thumbs-down sealed the inevitable failure of this approach.  

Take away the restrictions, however, and Republicans could have proposed a replacement bill with significant cost-saving measures. There would have been losers under that plan but the majority of people in the country would have benefitted and the bill likely would have passed. Thus, the threat of the filibuster was directly responsible for the Republicans’ spectacular failure to replace Obamacare. 

President Trump understands this which is why he is calling for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to permanently kill the filibuster. Not only would this allow Republicans to revisit health care but it would ease the path for enacting their full agenda. The President, in fact, can’t understand why Republicans won’t kill the filibuster especially since, in his view, the Democrats will certainly kill it the next time they are in power.

Trump may well be right about that. Once McConnell used the “nuclear option” to end the filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, he essentially passed the baton to Democrats giving them the political cover to finish the job. The Democrats can, and probably will, argue that if Supreme Court nominees can be put on the bench with only 51 votes why should critical legislation need 60?   

So why does McConnell resist? I believe the reason is that as long as the filibuster remains, there is still a chance that Democrats will be bound by it. Today, the filibuster is an impediment to the Republican agenda but over the years, the filibuster has been used far more often by Conservative elements such as southern Democrats in the 1950s or Republicans during the Obama administration to prevent liberal legislation from passing. Take it away and there may be nothing to stop Democrats from, for example, enacting single payer health insurance the next time they control Congress and the White House.

Perhaps Trump is right and Democrats will kill the filibuster first chance they get. But they’ll pay a political price if they do and the fear of that price may stop them. That is what McConnell is counting on as he resists Trump’s demand to end the filibuster.

If you were McConnell, what would you do?

Comments and Responses (2)

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By  Zach The Taylor - 1 year ago
I have a different idea. Democrats are currently terrified that Trump will get to nominate at least two more Supreme Court Justices before the end of his first term. Why doesn't McConnell offer to reinstate the filibuster for Supreme Court justices in exchange for Democrats agreeing to not filibuster tax reform and health care legislation. This would restore sanity to both the Supreme Court selection process and the legislative process. The filibuster was always intended for only the most extreme situations. We can still return to that if our leaders will lead.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Excellent suggestion but it's too late for this election cycle. If McConnell was going to make that offer he would have done it already. He's hoping that Anthony Kennedy will retire next June and that Trump will name the next Supreme Court judge before the 2018 election. Once the Conservative majority is secured, and assuming the Republicans keep control of the Senate in 2018, I think McConnell may well want to make an offer like what you're suggesting - especially if Trump remains unpopular and it begins to look like Democrats will take the Senate in 2020.
General Comments
By  Facebook Commenter - 1 year ago
If I was McConnell I would move to North Korea then he could live under the government he wants for us.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is neither relevant nor interesting. (Comment will be removed)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Obviously you don't like Mitch McConnell. I'm not a fan either but why would the 3rd most powerful person in America (behind Trump and Ryan) want to move to a place where no one has any power except for the Dear Leader? Furthermore, McConnell's resistance to ending the filibuster is proof that he is not the one who favors a dictatorship.