Trump: It’s time for the Senate to switch to a simple majority of 51 votes
I thought he’d wait until after the midterms to start having meltdowns about the filibuster. But this is the second time this month that he’s complained about it. Four weeks ago…
…and again today:
Which poor White House staffer will be forced to explain to him that he probably couldn’t get health care through the Senate even if the filibuster were gone? You’ve got a hardcore conservative contingent there of Cruz/Paul/Lee and a RINO contingent of Collins/Murkowski/Heller et al. McConnell can afford to lose two votes, tops. So long as he needs 60 to pass anything (right, right, he can do it with 51 via reconciliation, but reconciliation comes with all sorts of procedural strings attached), Trump can blame Democrats for obstructing his agenda. Under the current rules, the GOP has a rallying cry for electing more Republicans in 2018: Give us 60 seats, or something in the ballpark, and Schumer won’t be able to stop us. If the filibuster goes bye-bye, he’ll have lost his last fig leaf for legislative paralysis. Imagine the demoralization on the right if McConnell nuked the filibuster and the party still couldn’t pass anything meaningful. Effectively, the midterm slogan would become “What’s the point of voting Republican?” Trump and McConnell would have no answer.
Remember, Republicans are already planning to use reconciliation for health care and tax reform and they’re still dangerously close to having nothing to show for their first year in power:
Republican leaders are coming to the bleak conclusion they will end summer and begin the fall with no major policy accomplishments. Privately, they realize it’s political malpractice to blow at least the first nine months of all-Republican rule, but also realize there’s little they can do to avoid the dismal outcome.
In fact, they see the next four months as MORE troublesome than the first four. They’re facing terrible budget choices and headlines, the painful effort to re-work the health care Rubik’s Cube in the House (presuming it makes it out of the Senate), a series of special-election scares (or losses) — all with scandal-mania as the backdrop.
One of the key insights I picked up at last week’s SALT hedge-fund conference in Vegas (tough duty) was that nobody thought health care reform would happen, and most were very skeptical that Trump and Republicans could get their acts together enough to pass tax reform this year.
There’s no point in doing something as draconian as nuking the filibuster when it might not end the gridlock in the Senate. And in any case, Trump doesn’t have the numbers. McConnell’s against it, as are more than 60 senators. If Trump were a phenomenally popular president, he might be able to muster the political juice to frighten reluctant Republicans into changing the rules, but with his numbers where they are, there’s no way. Even then, he’d have a hell of a hard time. People like McCain and Graham, who won’t face voters in their states again for several years, could hold out in the name of honoring Senate traditions. All Schumer would need is three Republicans to block McConnell and save the filibuster.
But maybe Trump understands all of that and his filibuster complaints are just a means of buck-passing. Blaming Democrats for his failures is a hard sell when his party controls both houses of Congress. Blaming congressional Republicans is easier since they’re hated by the left and his own grassroots base. Maybe in 2018 he’ll run another anti-establishment campaign aimed at both parties, except this time with a sales pitch calling for Republican Senate reinforcements to help him set Washington right. “Drain the Swamp 2: Even Drain-ier!”