President Joe Biden said that he supports a reversal of the current filibuster rules and wants to go back to “the old days” when he first became a senator. Biden reminisced during a March 16th interview with ABC News’ anchor and former Clinton flack George Stephanopoulos. “You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking,” Biden said. He added, “It’s getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning.”
With the kind of change that Biden has in mind, one or more senators would have to remain on the Senate floor and speak continuously to keep a filibuster challenge to legislation alive. This is an indirect way of busting the filibuster a bit more slowly than immediately eliminating it altogether. If the Republicans surrender to this gambit, the result will be to allow radical legislation on open border immigration, nationalization of voting rules, and other fundamental transformative changes to America’s constitutional republic and capitalistic economy to squeak through a 50-50 divided Senate. Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the tie-breaking vote. So much for Biden’s hollow pledges of bipartisanship and unity.
Back in the day when Biden was serving in the Senate, he spoke out strongly in favor of the filibuster as a way of preventing “a fundamental power grab by the majority party.” Now, with Democrats in charge of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, President Biden is fine with Democrats leveraging Harris’s tie-breaking power to engineer the mother of all power grabs. All that Biden cares about is placating his leftwing progressive base.
Biden is making an obvious appeal to Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a relative moderate in the Senate Democrat caucus, to vote for weakening the filibuster. Manchin had previously spoken very strongly in favor of the filibuster as a means to protect the rights of the minority in the Senate and foster bipartisan compromise. For example, last November Manchin told CNN, “I’m not voting for — for basically breaking the filibuster because that means that we’ve given up on the Senate that’s supposed to work in a bipartisan way.” On January 11, 2021, Bret Baier, the anchor of Fox News’ “Special Report,” asked Manchin what he would tell Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer if Schumer pressed him to “break the filibuster, to change the rules.” Manchin responded, “I would say, Chuck, have you sat down and tried to work with Mitch? And, Mitch, would you sit down with Chuck? Can you all try to work this out? Can we find some compromise to where we can get 60 or 65 of us voting for the same thing?”
In recent days, Manchin has changed his tune, signaling his willingness to turn the filibuster into attrition warfare. Biden and Schumer see an opening to use their raw power to nullify fifty Republicans – half the Senate – and enact the Democrats’ radical progressive agenda.
Biden already signaled his “ends justify the means” attitude when he worked with Democrats to jam through his so-called “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021” via the budget reconciliation process. This maneuver allowed the Senate to bypass the filibuster altogether. The Democrats passed, without a single Senate Republican vote, a radical wish list that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki described as “one of the most consequential and most progressive pieces of legislation in American history.” Most of it had little to do with actual COVID-19 relief. Now there is talk about using the budget reconciliation process again to pass historic tax increases and infrastructure pork legislation.
However, to pass their complete leftwing progressive legislative agenda, Biden and his Democrat pals in Congress know that they cannot rely on the budget reconciliation process alone. They saw its limits when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the $15 hourly national minimum wage provision did not belong in a reconciliation bill. Thus, they must rally all 50 Democrat senators to stick together and use their ace in the hole – Harris’s tie-breaking vote – to change the legislative filibuster rules for the first time since 1975.
The current legislative filibuster procedure prevents the majority in the Senate from freezing out the minority on legislation of major importance without holding up the business of the Senate on other matters. It is unconscionable that Schumer and his cohorts, with Biden’s support, are planning to neuter the only Senate procedural safeguard against their overreach in a Senate that is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
The Democrats are acting as if they have a clear mandate from voters to forge ahead with their radical agenda in the absence of a single Republican vote. They want a blank check to enact all sorts of unprecedented progressive proposals into law solely by virtue of Harris’s tie-breaking vote. Democrats are thirsting, for example, to do away with states’ protections against voter fraud. They want to codify nationwide universal mail-in voting, turn the Federal Election Commission into their partisan tool, and silence the voices of those advocating political positions that deviate from their own. This is the first step on the way to one-party rule in Washington, D.C. The next step is to extend amnesty and citizenship to millions of illegal aliens, who will pay Democrat candidates for president and Congress back with their unearned votes. Then it is on to strict gun control legislation that could lead to gun confiscations, packing the Supreme Court, and so on.
Opponents of the filibuster argue that it is an anti-democratic relic of the past. Of course, that’s what many of them say about the Constitution itself. The filibuster as it now exists is needed more than ever today to stop the Senate Democrats’ onrushing freight train loaded with packages of leftwing progressive legislation.
If the Democrats proceed with their plan to change the filibuster rules to make the Republicans feel “pain” in using the filibuster in the future, the Republicans will need to inflict some pain of their own on the power-hungry Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already warned his Democrat colleagues that if they change the filibuster rules, they will pay a very heavy price. Vowing to use every option and “scorched earth” tactic at his disposal, McConnell threatened that his Republican caucus will make the Senate “more like a 100-car pileup, nothing moving.” Biden can then say goodbye to his legislative agenda for a long time, except for what he can push through the budget reconciliation process.
“Does anyone really believe the American people were voting for an entirely new system of government by electing Joe Biden to the White House and a 50-50 senate?” McConnell asked rhetorically. “This is a 50-50 Senate. There was no mandate to completely transform America by the American people on November 3. That may be what a few liberal activists want, but does anyone believe that millions of Americans thought that’s what they were electing? Of course not.”
McConnell also reminded the Democrats that the power pendulum swings both ways, “and it would swing hard.” He added, “We wouldn’t just erase every liberal change that hurt the country — we’d strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero, zero input from the other side.”
If the filibuster is to turn into a non-stop talking marathon, the Republicans supporting a filibuster of a radical piece of legislation (hopefully all 50) can take turns speaking on the floor every hour of every day and night, without any break between speakers if they must. They can start with multiple readings of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and then go from there. Maybe Biden, Schumer and their friends will learn something. Then again, probably not.
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Photo credit: Gage Skidmore