Via CNN. There’ll be a squabble on the right over this, but not much of one.
I will not now suddenly abandon my support of the filibuster because the GOP controls everything. One day they won't.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) November 9, 2016
That’s a prudent position but it won’t fly, as you’ll see when you listen to Walker in the clip below. Unless I’ve misunderstood him, he’s not talking about getting rid of the filibuster only for Supreme Court appointments, he’s talking about getting rid of it for legislation. No more filibuster, period. Every bill needs 51 votes from now on instead of 60 to pass. Erickson doesn’t like the idea because he knows a day will come when the GOP will be back in the minority and will miss having the power to block Democratic bills. But he’ll have problems winning that argument.
One, as I said earlier, is that Trump is an authoritarian who sells himself as a Man of Action. If Democrats held the Senate next year and he was forced to negotiate with Chuck Schumer to get bills on the floor, that’s one thing. He wouldn’t be happy about it, but that’s life. Because Republicans hold the Senate, though, he’ll expect obeisance from McConnell — and more importantly, so will Trump’s fans. The Faustian bargain made by the GOP leadership in supporting Trump this year was that by playing nice with him, his fans would remain loyal GOP voters downballot. It worked like a charm. What didn’t work for them is that Trump ended up winning the election and now they have to answer to him or else they’ll face the same political risk, that Trumpers will either primary them or boycott their elections if they don’t do what Trump wants. Prudential civic arguments won’t puncture a cult of personality, especially one now reinforced by victory and power. McConnell participated in this hostage situation and now he’s stuck with it.
Another problem, identified by Walker, is the sense that opportunities like this don’t come along often and might actually never come again given the country’s demographic drift. The last time Republicans had total control of government, under Bush, they squandered it. Now’s the moment to do big-picture stuff, which ideally would include entitlement reform to get the country on track to fiscal stability but certainly won’t include that because Trump’s working-class base won’t tolerate it. So they’re going to do other things. ObamaCare repeal is definitely on tap, according to Mitch McConnell himself, but he doesn’t need to nuke the filibuster to do that. They can do it via reconciliation procedures. There’s also … an infrastructure bill coming, I guess? Some sort of border-hawkish immigration reform, maybe? Who knows. Trumpmania was never about policy beyond building the wall. Again, though, it’s a rare opportunity, especially since the 2018 midterm map looks rosy and Republicans probably won’t have to worry about Democrats taking back the Senate until 2020. A filibuster-less Senate would give them four years to pass anything they desire. No prudential argument is going to sour the appeal of that idea for Republican voters after eight years of dining on Obama’s gruel.
And finally, don’t underestimate the satisfaction that would come from giving Dirty Harry Reid and Democrats a taste of their own medicine on the filibuster. Reid not only set the precedent for getting rid of it when he and his caucus banned its use in blocking executive appointments (apart from SCOTUS, of course), he was crowing about getting rid of the rest of it a few weeks ago when it looked like Democrats, not Republicans, would control the White House and Senate. Reid blazed and re-blazed this trail, and there’s every reason to think his lefty disciples will follow his advice and get rid of the filibuster themselves once they have a chance down the road to do so. Why should the GOP protect the Democrats’ minority leverage now when there’s every reason to think Dems won’t repay the kindness in 2020 or whenever they’re back in the majority? That’s where the prudential argument breaks down. It’s worth thinking hard about saving the filibuster if you can count on the other party to save it too. When you can’t, and the GOP can’t thanks to Reid, why not take advantage of your political strength and do away with it now yourself?
Speaking of filibusters and appointments, I’m seeing conservatives kicking around Mike Lee’s name this afternoon as a potential replacement for Scalia on the Court. Anything’s possible, but Lee was one of the most outspoken Trump critics in the party all year. It would be statesmanlike, but completely out of character, for Trump to let bygones be bygones and nominate him for the vacancy on the basis of merit, notwithstanding his criticism. In fact, Omarosa Manigault, one of his advisors, was crowing to reporters last night at the Trump victory party that they’re keeping an enemies list of Republican politicians who didn’t support him. Likewise, the NYT reported last weekend, when Trump was facing the prospect of defeat, that he “still privately muses about all the ways he will punish his enemies after Election Day, including a threat to fund a ‘super PAC’ with vengeance as its core mission.” That’s him all over. Lee may end up on the Court eventually but it’ll take a different Republican president to put him there.