No, Republicans Will Not Get Rid of The Filibuster
People making this argument have confused the GOP with a party that actually takes legislating seriously
I’m Michael A. Cohen, and this is Truth and Consequences: A no-holds-barred look at the absurdities, hypocrisies, and surreality of American politics. If you received this email - or you are a free subscriber - and you’d like to subscribe: you can sign up here.
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Republicans Love The Filibuster
One of the recurrent refrains heard during the debate over the future of the Senate filibuster is that the GOP is just itching at the opportunity to kill it when the party gets back in power.
Among filibuster opponents, there is an iron-clad conviction that once Republicans take back the Senate, the House, and the presidency, they will scrap the filibuster and pass every right-wing policy agenda item imaginable.
Adam Jentleson 🎈 @AJentlesonThe filibuster is a dead man walking. The only remaining question is who wields the knife and to what end.
Democratic defenders of the filibuster have adopted a similar argument and said that if Democrats change the rules on voting rights, Republicans will soon follow by doing away with the filibuster altogether.
Filibuster supporters like Mitt Romney have warned that doing away with the 60-vote threshold would lead to policy whiplash.
But these premises are based on a faulty assumption — that Republicans are interested actually governing the country.
How do I know this? Back in 2017, Republicans had a governing trifecta — control of both houses of Congress and the White House. Did they get rid of the filibuster to pass an abortion ban, shred the social safety net or cut Medicare and Social Security? No.
They didn’t for a host of reasons. First is the lack of consensus within their party on these issues. Three members of the Senate GOP caucus are pro-choice (Collins, Murkowski, and Capito). Plenty of others who claim to be pro-life would have hardly relished voting for a national abortion ban and then trying to justify that to their constituents. Second, Republicans didn’t need to end the filibuster to hack away at social insurance programs or the social safety net. They could have done it via the budget reconciliation process, which only requires 50 votes to pass the Senate. But they didn’t because doing so would have been highly unpopular and politically toxic. Of course, Republicans did end the filibuster for confirming Supreme Court Justices because, on that point, there was broad GOP support. In other words, Republicans would be happy to scrap the filibuster when it furthers their political interests. On packing the Supreme Court with conservative ideologues, it does; in passing a national abortion ban, it most certainly doesn’t! Plus, why go through all the trouble of taking a difficult vote on abortion when you can add unelected and unaccountable justices to the Supreme Court who will do it for you. Why should they take the heat when someone else can?
Lastly, and most important, Republicans are a party without a discernible policy agenda. Again, you don’t have to believe me — believe Mitch McConnell. When asked earlier this week about the GOP’s policy agenda if the party takes back control of Congress, McConnell responded, "That is a very good question. And I'll let you know when we take it back."
Last month, Axios reported that he told “colleagues and donors Senate Republicans won't release a legislative agenda" before the midterm elections.
Or you can read this interview with New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who said that after he asked Senate Republicans what they wanted to accomplish if they took back the Senate and the White House in 2024, the answer was “crickets.
I’m not exactly making a revelatory point here. Conservative ideology is about stopping the government from doing things rather than, say, actually doing things. Indeed, the reason Republicans don’t want to get rid of the filibuster is that it not only gives them a sure-fire tool for obstructing Democrats, but if the filibuster no longer existed, they might be forced to actually legislate.
Indeed, if Democrats did away with the 60-vote threshold and Republicans could pass any piece of legislation with 51 votes, then they would be pressured to hold a vote on a national abortion ban. They could find themselves pushed to privatize Social Security, cut Medicare, gut environmental laws, or take any other number of politically toxic votes. The filibuster prevents any of that from happening. To those like Sinema, Manchin et al. who argue for keeping the filibuster to protect Democrats … they are protecting Republicans from the messy business of legislating.
Speaking of Kyrsten Sinema
This poll is probably a bit of an outlier but … holy shit!
This comes on the heels of some of Sinema’s top donors threatening to end their financial backing and the powerful Emily’s List saying they are cutting off support for the Arizona Senator because of her stance on ending the Senate filibuster to pass voting rights.
As I wrote the other day, I give up trying to understand any of this. Maybe Sinema survives a primary in 2024 and wins reelection, but the chances of that happening are distinctly worse than if she had just joined her 48 fellow Democrats in voting to scrap the filibuster. But even if she wins reelection, her future within the Democratic Party is done. This is as high as she goes. No leadership position, no presidential run, no Cabinet post, and frankly, I’d be surprised if she’s asked to speak at a Democratic convention anytime soon. To be sure, it’s not as if Sinema has some mastery of swing-state politics. With the exception of Joe Manchin, every other Democrat in a red or purple state, including her fellow Arizona Democrat, Mark Kelly, voted to change the filibuster rules on Wednesday. Instead, Sinema has made a disastrously stupid political decision for reasons that are simply inexplicable.
Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln.
What’s Going On?
Jonathan Bernstein provides the best explanation for why Democrats embraced two voting rights bills they knew wouldn’t pass. It was in their political interest to do so.
Read Yair Rosenberg on what people still don’t understand about antisemitism.
Ron Brownstein sees a silver lining in the Democrats’ filibuster vote yesterday.
My album of the day (as in this is the album that I’m listening to as I write this post is Okkervill River’s “The Silver Gymnasium.” I have nothing else to say about this album than I absolutely love it. This is the first song “It Was My Season.”