2021 ended for congressional Democrats not with a bang, but with a whimper. The massive Build Back Better spending spree was stuck in the mud, while the bizarrely named “Freedom to Vote Act” was similarly left in limbo. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. If he can’t manage to jam Joe Biden’s agenda through according to the established rules, he’ll just change the rules. And the one that he’s threatening to target is the filibuster. This is the intimidating pledge Schumer decided to kick off the new year with, telling his Republican colleagues in the upper chamber that if they didn’t get on board with the Democrat’s sweeping plans to rig future elections in their favor in the name of “voting reform” then he would make it so they can pass the bill with a simple majority vote. Sadly for Schumer, that won’t be nearly as easy as he’s making it sound and even if he can do it, he may live to regret it in the very near future. (National Review)
Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer announced Monday that the chamber would debate eliminating the filibuster in the coming weeks if Republicans refuse to join Democrats in passing sweeping voting legislation.
While the filibuster was designed to empower the minority party in the Senate, Schumer argued that it now serves to “embarrass the will of the majority,” against the founders’ intentions for legislative procedure. He claimed that Republicans should not be allowed to block the Freedom to Vote Act, using the vehicle of the filibuster, that only further enshrines and expands the American right to vote.
Schumer has previously expressed support for altering the filibuster but the statement is his strongest in favor of the idea.
The wheels may be coming off of the clown car this month. Republicans in Congress have already recognized and pointed out that the so-called “Freedom to Vote Act” is actually a scheme that would enshrine the massive mail-in voting that led to chaos in the 2020 elections, eliminate broadly popular voter ID laws, and override the will of the individual states by nationalizing election rules. There isn’t going to be any measurable GOP support for this plot no matter how much threatening and foot-stamping Schumer engages in.
Also, both Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema have previously said that they have no interest in eliminating the filibuster. To be fair, Manchin has claimed to be a “no” vote on many things, only to later “reconsider” them, but he’s been pretty consistent on this point. Still, getting both of them to go along with the plan seems unlikely.
But let’s just pretend for a moment that Schumer has a path to kill off the filibuster and drive through Biden’s largely unpopular agenda by misusing the reconciliation process. What happens next? Well, it’s conceivable that a couple of the Democrats’ bills might be hammered through in that fashion, relying on Kamala Harris to break some tie votes. But then the Democrats still have to face what appears to be a very likely red wave in the November midterms.
It’s far too soon to predict how that will play out, but if the Democrats lose the majority in either chamber, Biden’s agenda is dead until the next presidential elections. And that’s almost the best-case scenario for them. Now imagine the unlikely but still hypothetically possible outcome where a real red tsunami takes place and the GOP picks up a supermajority of sixty seats in the Senate and even a slim majority in the House. At that point, Republicans could schedule votes on repeals for nearly everything the Democrats have pushed through.
They could then use some of the Democrats’ own medicine against them and begin stampeding a herd of conservative policies toward Joe Biden’s desk. And liberals will be able to kiss the idea of a flood of liberal judges being seated goodbye. It would be a very long two years for the Democrats indeed. And some of us with less charitable attitudes would probably be sitting back with evil smiles on our faces and munching popcorn.
Surely Chuck Schumer has been around the political block enough times to realize all of this. So is he bluffing about nuking the filibuster just to try to scare a few GOP votes his way? Perhaps. However, things have gotten progressively weirder in Washington over the past few years so I wouldn’t rule anything out at this point. But Chuck Schumer really should be careful what he wishes for. He just might get it.
UPDATE: (Jazz) A lack of coffee led me to write that vetos could be overridden with 60 votes. It would actually require 67. Still, bills could be passed. Article has been corrected.