Senate Republicans appear to be getting tough with Democrats seeking to do away with the filibuster in order to ram through supposed voting rights legislation. The GOP is reportedly threatening to flood the upper chamber with legislative proposals that might make some Democrats less than comfortable if they elect to lower the voting threshold. The question is: Will this gambit work?
Democrats Push to End Filibuster
The Democrats have been pushing to weaken or remove the filibuster since they claimed a razor-thin majority in the Senate. But now that they realize the party is in danger of receiving a sound drubbing during the upcoming midterm elections, they have intensified their efforts. During a speech on Tuesday, President Joe Biden, who previously opposed changing the filibuster rules, came out in favor of the idea to make it easier to pass sweeping voter rights laws. He said:
“I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, to bake them in, vote, and let the majority prevail. And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster.”
The president also made the predictable “Jim Crow 2.0” reference to paint anyone against this idea as vicious racists.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) clapped back at Democrats’ push to end the filibuster. On Tuesday, he threatened to make life difficult for Democrats if they abandon the practice. “A post-nuclear Senate would not be more efficient or more productive. I personally guarantee it,” he asserted. “Do my colleagues understand how many times per day the Senate needs and gets unanimous consent for basic housekeeping? Do they understand how many things could require roll call votes? How often the minority could demand lengthy debate?” In a statement released to The Wall Street Journal, McConnell also said, “since Sen. [Chuck] Schumer is hellbent on trying to break the Senate, Republicans will show how this reckless action would have immediate consequences.”
Republicans in the upper chamber also have another tactic to deter Democrats from taking action against the filibuster and have begun issuing even more threats to their colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
Republicans Playing Hardball?
Senate Republicans warned Democrats that they would launch a takeover of the upper chamber’s agenda by forcing debates and votes on a long list of bills under Rule 14 if the filibuster were scrapped. These proposals include legislation on the Keystone XL pipeline, abortion, and the border wall.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) explained that the GOP has a list of bills that could place at least some Democrats in a precarious position. These measures could pass with the support of moderate Dems like Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). “We have a lot of bills, actually, that have bipartisan support that Democrats have expressed support for previously,” Thune asserted. He then affirmed that if the threshold were lowered to 50 votes, a number of bipartisan bills “would be available to get called up with a simple majority” and that there “could be some really hard votes for Democrats.”
“What they’re talking about doing — we’ve said this before — is not without consequence, and they know it. They need to think long and hard … about whether or not they want to go down a path that allows Republicans to move items on our agenda at 51,” Thune said.
Senate Democrats, for their part, replied with a political version of “I’m your huckleberry,” indicating that the Republicans are making an empty threat. They intimated these measures would not be as tough for left-leaning lawmakers as the GOP seems to think.
How Will This Turn Out?
At the moment, it appears Senate Republicans and Democrats are locked in a game of chicken, and it is not clear which side, if either, will blink. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday, Jan. 12, that if the GOP invokes the filibuster on the voting rights bills he plans to bring to a vote soon, “we will need to change the Senate rules as has been done many times before.” That attempt at a final nuking of the filibuster, which would rid the upper chamber of the rule entirely, would occur either later this week or early in the next, according to Schumer. Of course, it is also worth noting that neither Manchin nor Sinema have shown any signs of support for lowering the voting threshold to 50, much to the consternation of other Democrats and their close friends and allies in the activist media.
Nevertheless, should these two change their minds, it would be quite interesting to see how these votes would proceed. Forcing Democrats to vote on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline and other contentious measures might make some of them more vulnerable to being voted out in November’s midterm elections.
At the same time, one can’t forget that Democrats appear to be making voting rights one of the centerpieces of their 2022 campaign. After a dismal first year in control of the federal government, they are in desperate need of a win, which is why they now push so hard to weaken the filibuster. So, either way, they are in quite a tough spot, and no amount of “Jim Crow 2.0” chanting will get them out of this pickle. But they still have to try, don’t they?
~ Read more from Jeff Charles.