Reps. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said McConnell should change Senate rules, so the House-passed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill, which includes language to revoke Obama’s immigration-related actions, can bypass a Democratic filibuster in the upper chamber…
“Mitch McConnell can change the rules of the Senate. And this is important enough for Mitch McConnell to change the rules of the Senate,” Labrador said.
“I don’t think Mitch McConnell should let the Senate rules trump the Constitution,” the Kansan said.
McConnell has 52-53 votes for the House’s anti-amnesty bill but, thanks to the filibuster, needs 60 to invoke cloture. Eliminating the filibuster means he’d only need 51, thus assuring passage. “Let’s look at Harry Reid, when he was Senate majority leader and the power that he wielded,” said GOP Rep. Mo Brooks last night, endorsing the Labrador/Huelskamp plan. “He said, ‘I’m not going to let the filibuster stop me from achieving my political goals.'” Actually … Reid did say that, sort of. He kept the filibuster for legislation, knowing that it meant allowing the Senate GOP minority to block all sorts of Democratic bills. He even kept it for Supreme Court nominations. He ended it for non-SCOTUS presidential appointees. Brooks et al. are now demanding that McConnell go considerably further than even Reid did, and that he do it at a moment when there’s a Democratic veto waiting at the White House for the House’s DHS bill. Killing the filibuster won’t get the bill passed, in other words, it’ll simply shift the confrontation from “congressional Republicans vs. congressional Democrats” to “congressional Republicans vs. Obama.” Which isn’t ideal at a moment when the economy’s improving and O’s approval rating is improving with it.
So momentous would it be to eliminate the filibuster entirely that Democrats declined to do it even after Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election in 2010, denying them their 60th vote on ObamaCare. (Reid managed to avoid the filibuster anyway by using reconciliation to pass the bill.) And remember, the electoral landscape in 2016 favors the Dems, not only because it’s a presidential year with a bluer turnout but because various purple-state Republicans in the Senate will be up for reelection. There’s a fair chance that Hillary wins the presidency and Reid regains a slim Senate majority; ending the filibuster now means he’d waltz back into the majority leader’s role needing nothing more than 51 votes to pass bills — and able to blame Mitch McConnell for the rule change rather than take the heat for changing the rule himself. But maybe that doesn’t matter. Nearly everyone thinks that the filibuster’s going to get nuked sooner or later; who really cares if it’s the GOP or the Democrats who drop the bomb? It’s a lead-pipe cinch too that the House will remain in GOP hands through 2016 and probably until 2020 at the earliest, meaning that a filibuster-less Senate and a new Clinton administration won’t get the Democrats any closer to moving their agenda through Congress. The House can and will block them regardless of what happens to the filibuster. In fact, because Republicans have such a stranglehold on the House, it’s more likely that you’ll see a government controlled entirely by Republicans in 2017 than one controlled entirely by Democrats, which means nuking the filibuster now — with a Democrat still in the White House — would give the GOP some political cover later. McConnell would take a lot of media heat for getting rid of the 60-vote threshold after a Republican president is sworn in. Doing it now, with Obama still in place to thwart the GOP, would turn that heat down to low.
As for how the Labrador/Huelskamp plan is playing in the Senate, well…
“I think the Senate rules wisely protect the minority,” [Ted] Cruz piped in. “The answer is not to change the Senate rules. The answer is for Senate Democrats not to be obstructionist. And even more so, the answer is for Senate Democrats to be held accountable if they are simultaneously being hypocritical.”
If Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell are united against an idea, it’s a safe bet that that idea’s DOA. Here’s Cruz this morning at a presser on the partisan standoff over the House bill, playing the good soldier by laying the blame for any coming shutdowns at the Democrats’ feet. That’s a noble spin effort, but other Senate GOPers are glum about the media PR war to come. “Of course Republicans will get blamed” for a DHS shutdown, one anonymous Republican senator told The Hill.