The funniest thing on social media over the past 48 hours has been liberals complaining that McConnell may love the filibuster now but if he were back in charge of the Senate he’d nuke it ruthlessly to clear a path for Republican policies.
As if we didn’t just spend six years watching Cocaine Mitch steadfastly refusing to nuke the filibuster as majority leader, even when Republicans had total control of government in 2017 and 2018, even when the leader of his party was barking at him to do it.
I know political attention spans post-Trump have atrophied almost completely but McConnell was in charge of the Senate as recently as 24 days ago. You don’t even have to look back past this calendar month to remember a time when he was in position to go nuclear!
If you’re a Dem who’s spoiling to find some unfairness in the endless filibuster kabuki, here’s the best you can do: The filibuster is a bigger hindrance to the left than to the right because the few things that the right still wants to do with power can now be done with 50 votes. There’s not much of a “Republican agenda” anymore, especially now that Trump is gone, but the two old reliables are cutting taxes and confirming judges. Well, the filibuster was nuked for judges several years ago and tax cuts can be passed via budget reconciliation. Even ObamaCare repeal in 2017 was a simple majority vote via reconciliation that ended up being tanked by John McCain.
If you want to pass Medicare for All or a mass amnesty for illegals or an assault-weapons ban or the Green New Deal, the filibuster is an insuperable obstacle. But if all you want to do is fill SCOTUS seats, it’s no biggie.
Cocaine Mitch warned Schumer this morning that if Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema turn out to have been lying to him and Dems end up going nuclear, they should prepare for a nuclear counterstrike. Full release:
Republicans, he said, would exercise their rights to object to routine business and demand frequent quorum calls — procedural feints that would grind business to a standstill and require senators and Vice President Harris to be on constant standby for roll-call votes.
“None of us on either side want to live in a scorched-earth Senate,” McConnell said. “This gambit would not speed the Democrats’ ambitions. It would delay them terribly. And it would hamstring the Biden presidency over a power grab which the president has spent decades warning against and still opposes.”…
“At some point the shoe would find its way to the other foot,” McConnell said, saying Republicans would move forward with abortion restrictions, elimination of business regulations, a border wall, and attacks on union organizing, among other items.
“You get the picture,” he added. “Taking that plunge would not be some progressive dream. It would be a nightmare — I guarantee it.”
“You’ll regret this, and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think,” McConnell famously said to Harry Reid’s caucus in 2013, after Senate Democrats nuked the filibuster for all presidential nominees except SCOTUS nominations. Less than four years later, Republicans went nuclear to confirm Neil Gorsuch to a seat on the Supreme Court, with Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett shortly to follow.
Maybe they’ll take his warning seriously this time.
Anyway, it seems highly unlikely that the filibuster will be ditched anytime soon. Manchin and Sinema (especially Manchin) have no electoral incentive to put themselves on the hook for the success or failure of a far-left agenda. They’re happy to hide behind the filibuster. And Democrats probably aren’t looking at pick-ups in the midterms with a Democrat in the White House. They’re facing one or both chambers of Congress flipping red again in 2022, followed by an unpredictable election in 2024 in which Biden may or may not run. It’s entirely possible that a Republican succeeds him that year and the filibuster isn’t realistically back in the left’s crosshairs until 2028 at the earliest. Presumably that’s why McConnell felt obliged to deliver this warning today: Manchin and Sinema may realize that now is the last, best chance for them to get anything done for the rest of the decade and conclude that it’s worth doing that in spite of the risk to their careers. Especially if Cocaine Mitch starts filibustering every Biden initiative in sight.