With a Senate divided 50-50, but 60 votes needed to end debate on legislation, the filibuster rule is the one remaining constraint on pure majoritarianism in what’s supposed to be the more deliberative of the two legislative chambers. It’s a moderating check on raw political power, which is, of course, why many on the Left are now pushing as hard as possible to get rid of it.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema have already indicated they won’t go along with any plan to nuke the filibuster, but the arm-twisting and the woke shaming has already begun. But the large portion of the Left who are ready to go nuclear are also looking at ways to go around the filibuster rule, even at the expense of the Constitution. Here’s NY Mag‘s Eric Levitz:
Manchin may have vowed not to eliminate the filibuster. But months before his Fox News comments, the West Virginia senator expressed openness to reforming the convention, saying, “I’m interested in listening to anything because the place isn’t working.” And there are a great many ways to effectively eliminate the filibuster without officially doing so: Democrats could simply restore the requirement that a faction must speak continuously from the Senate floor in order to sustain a filibuster; or they could push non-budgetary legislation through the special budget-reconciliation process (that forbids filibusters), and then allow Kamala Harris to overrule the Senate parliamentarian when she objects to the bill’s ineligible content; or they could create a new exemption modeled on budget reconciliation that says, for example, “bills that expand voting rights cannot be filibustered.”
Joe Biden’s still mumbling about “unity” and coming together while his party wants to deploy a scorched-earth attack on a variety of fronts, including our right to keep and bear arms. What do you think the reaction would be if, by a vote of 51-50, the Senate sent Joe Biden a bill that required Americans to either turn in, destroy, or pay $200 an item to register with the government some 20-million firearms and well over 150-million ammunition magazines?
My friend and colleague Ed Morrissey has a great VIP piece on the current standoff between Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer over the issue; McConnell insisting that Democrats take the prospect of removing the filibuster off the table in the new power-sharing agreement that they’re trying to broker, and Schumer insisting that the nuclear option remain in place.
It would be best for the country if Schumer agreed to McConnell’s demand, which is why I highly doubt it will happen. Democrats should make no mistake, however, about what it would do to the fragile state of the nation if sweeping legislation, including a ban and compensated confiscation of tens of millions of firearms and hundreds of millions of magazines, were to be imposed by a 51-50 vote.
That would be the best way to truly radicalize tens of millions of Americans. My concern is that since there are so many voices on the Left who are ready to wage a domestic War on Terror against everyone they believe to be “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists,” and even libertarians that they’re perfectly fine with radicalizing the normies. It only helps to bolster their case that half the country needs to be viewed as an imminent threat. In that sense, nuking the filibuster accomplishes two goals; allowing huge changes by the slimmest of margins and sending the Right into a nuclear meltdown of their own.
In many ways the push to portray every Trump voter as an enemy of the state reminds me of a QAnon conspiracy theory for the Left, and so far we’ve seen Joe Biden stay as silent on his side’s conspiracy theory as Donald Trump was about QAnon. It was a mistake for Trump to do so, and it’s an even bigger flub for Biden, who again is touting himself as a unifying figure. If Biden really wants to be that, he would reassure half the country that Democrats aren’t to remove the last remaining check on majoritarianism in Congress. His silence on the issue only serves as confirmation to tens of millions of Americans that compliance, not unity, is really Biden’s goal.