Mitch McConnell may say no no no, but Donald Trump won’t take no for an answer. As Congress gets ready to return for what looks like a brutal September, Trump went back on Twitter to complain that eight Senate Democrats have taken control of Congress. Unless McConnell gets rid of the filibuster, Trump warned, Congress will be unable to function:
If Senate Republicans don't get rid of the Filibuster Rule and go to a 51% majority, few bills will be passed. 8 Dems control the Senate!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2017
Just eleven minutes later, though, Trump bragged about how many bills Congress has already passed under his leadership:
Few, if any, Administrations have done more in just 7 months than the Trump A. Bills passed, regulations killed, border, military, ISIS, SC!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2017
In other words, it’s not that few bills will pass, but that few major bills will pass unilaterally. But that’s true anyway — and Trump isn’t exactly helping to pull together the party to improve the situation. The likely issue that this references is funding for his border wall, on which Trump has already hinted that he’d cut a deal with Democrats to get, which would make filibuster elimination unnecessary anyway. Tax reform is still proceeding under reconciliation, so far with all of the unity and intra-caucus cooperation that we saw with ObamaCare repeal, which also means that the filibuster isn’t the problem.
CBS News picks up on this repeated demand as another display of GOP infighting at a very bad time:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 25, 2017
President Trump is escalating his. Mr. Trump’s attacks against top GOP lawmakers are creating rifts ahead of looming legislative deadlines. A prolonged standoff could trigger a government shutdown.
Congress will have 12 working days in September to deal with the challenge of raising the debt ceiling and avoiding a default on America’s bills that could trigger a financial crisis. On Twitter Friday morning, the president again urged Congress to change voting rules to sideline Democrats, reports CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan. …
McConnell is the latest Senate Republican finding himself at odds with Mr. Trump, who will need the support of nearly every available Republican if he wants to advance his legislative agenda.
It’s not just McConnell either. Trump has taken aim at Jeff Flake, who has been critical of Trump but who has voted with him and party leadership on ObamaCare and everything else. McConnell’s trying to push Trump’s agenda, but Trump keeps harping on a filibuster change that already has sixty-one votes on record in opposition. Even if McConnell wanted to put it to a vote, which he clearly doesn’t, he’d lose and lose big. It’s a dumb fight to keep picking, and all it does is make it tougher to focus on points of unity. Even Trump brags about bills passing under his leadership, so why keep demanding the impossible?
It’s inexplicable, especially since getting to 60 isn’t really the problem for Republicans. Their problem right now is that the Republican majority caucus can’t produce majority votes on major agenda items when only simple majorities are needed. In my column for The Week, I write that the GOP may be setting a record for futility in single-party governance:
The grand (and so far failed) experiment of single-party Republican governance is about to face its toughest test yet. After seven months with no major legislative accomplishments, when lawmakers return from recess in September, they will need to grapple with raising the debt ceiling and take up the budget for fiscal year 2018, perhaps the most basic responsibility the legislature has. To pass its agenda, Republicans will need to attract enough Democrats in the Senate to sign onto their budget priorities. But the bigger question may be whether the GOP can keep itself unified enough to pass anything at all. …
Republican disunity comes at a particularly difficult moment. The White House wants to push tax reform as its next big agenda item, which has already produced the same fault lines and mistrust within the ranks as ObamaCare repeal. Not only that, but the divide is likely to worsen now that the White House has decided to add to the mix a blockbuster trade on immigration, a policy area that has split the party for more than a decade.
The strategy is to cut a deal with Democrats to clear the way for funding the border wall, along with other conservative and populist immigration priorities like e-Verify and cuts to legal immigration. Democrats have pledged to obstruct any budget that includes border-wall funding — and unlike ObamaCare repeal, they have the votes to stop it under Senate rules for appropriations bills. Meanwhile, Trump is threatening to shut down the government if he doesn’t get money for his border wall.
The GOP plan has little chance of attracting significant approval among Democrats without more comprehensive reform such as normalization for current illegal immigrants, especially since Democrats will want to use immigration in next year’s midterms. But it has even less chance of unifying the congressional Republican caucus to generate enough support for passage, given the mistrust between the White House, party leadership, and the fractured rank and file. Adding immigration reform to this mix is akin to pouring water on a grease fire.
If Trump wants his agenda to pass, he needs to foster GOP unity rather than making impossible demands that have nothing to do with the acute issue at hand. The filibuster is a non-sequitur.