Ted Cruz: C'mon, it's time to end the filibuster

This’ll be the $1,000 square in a future Jeopardy! category, “GOP 2013 vs. GOP Now.”

I’m coming around to this idea too, knowing full well that it might not change much. ObamaCare repeal didn’t tank because Democrats filibustered a bill with 59 votes, it tanked because McConnell couldn’t get to 50 with his own caucus. Nuke the filibuster and put Trump’s DACA package on the floor of the Senate and that’ll probably fail too. At a minimum, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, and John McCain would all walk, forcing McConnell to find two votes from Democrats under intense pressure from the left not to give in. *Maybe* you’d get Manchin. That’s 49. Who else?

The GOP’s main problem today and going forward is that it’s actually two or three distinct parties under a common banner, with tax cuts the only common ground. And even there, who knows which way populists would go if Trump adopted a Bannon-esque position of demanding tax hikes on the rich? The filibuster is actually a useful scapegoat for Republican pols in convincing base voters who don’t pay close attention to floor votes that it’s Democrats who are killing all the major bills rather than the party’s own factionalism. Get rid of the filibuster and you get rid of that fig leaf too.

“As recently as even a couple years ago, if you had asked me, ‘Should we get rid of it?’ I would have said ‘no,’ because it slows down the growth of government,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a meeting with the Washington Examiner in his Senate offices. “That is no longer my view.”…

“There is nothing in the history of the Senate remotely like what we’re facing right now, which is the filibuster being used on everything,” Cruz said in explaining his changing view of the filibuster. “Their base, the hard radical Left, is demanding ‘Fight! Resist!’ And so, every substantive piece of legislation — virtually every one — gets filibustered.”…

“I think if the Democrats ever regain the majority, they’ll end legislative filibuster,” Cruz predicted. “That’s where their conference is. And it doesn’t make any sense for it be a one-way ratchet — for us to have our hands tied and for them to be able to pass with a simple majority.”

Partly Cruz is pandering here, knowing that Trump has pushed this idea repeatedly on Twitter and that it’s bound to play well with Texans as he gears up for reelection this fall. But I bet if you polled his suggestion that Democrats will nuke the filibuster themselves lickety split once they’re back in charge and a have a friend in the White House, you’d see 80 percent or better of Republicans agree. Whichever party ends up finally going nuclear will have an appealing argument, that the country simply can’t endure legislative paralysis forever. It’s time to make some changes to national policy and see how they play out. Some will counter that the fact that the electorate is increasingly polarized is a point in *favor* of the filibuster, that it seems unwise to make it easier for one party to impose its will when the opposition is forever febrile in resisting. Conservatives in particular will be chilly to the idea of greasing the wheels in the Senate for exactly the reason Cruz says, that making it easier for Washington to assert itself is almost always a bad idea.

But the counter to that is simple. If voters want to slow the feds down, all they need to do is elect divided government. Democrats could have nuked the filibuster in January 2011 and little would have changed over the past seven years thanks to GOP gains in Congress. (They did, of course, nuke the filibuster for most presidential appointees during Obama’s second term.) In fact, we’re likely to have divided government again next year. That’s the best objection to Cruz’s proposal, I think: Unless there are 50 votes to nuke the filibuster this year, and there aren’t by his own admission, what’s the point? If Pelosi’s in charge in 2019, getting to 50 in the Senate will be the least of the GOP’s problems. Ironically, if Republicans hold the Senate and Democrats take the House, the filibuster may become a useful tool again for conservatives like Cruz in stopping Trump and McConnell from making any centrist-y deals with the Democrats.

Best-case scenario for filibuster-haters: Trump wins reelection and the GOP ends up in the majority in both houses in 2021. Trump’s not going to sit by and spend four more years at the mercy of 60 votes in the Senate. McConnell may end up being muscled into finally killing the rule. But that’s a pie-in-the-sky wish; the 2020 Senate map is very favorable to the Dems, so even if they don’t take back both chambers this year, they’re likely to hold at least one three years from now. Expect Trump to mention that frequently on the trail when he runs again, too. “I’m the only thing standing between you and total Democratic control of the government — without a filibuster,” he’ll tell Republican voters. That might be enough to kill NeverTrump off for good.

Here’s a fun clip from a few days ago. Ted Cruz, the face of the 2013 shutdown, is anti-shutdown.