The dome of the US Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C., September 20, 2008.
Karen Bleier/AFP Photo

The future of the filibuster is in doubt

Republican dominance of the federal government, at least for now, is not in doubt. In two months, a radicalized GOP will control the White House, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House. Soon after, Republican appointees will also dominate the Supreme Court – probably for a long while.

What can Democrats cling to in the hopes of stopping a far-right stampede? Well, there’s always the Senate filibuster.

Democratic hopes of reclaiming the Senate majority came up short this year, but the party did add two seats to their caucus, setting up a likely 52-48 Senate. As anyone who watched Congress during the Obama era knows, it takes 60 votes to get anything of any significance through the chamber, which means Dems have an opportunity to do exactly what Republicans did when the tables were reversed.

Naturally, it means some Republicans are eager to eliminate the one thing that could slow the party’s agenda down. CNN reported yesterday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) believes it’s time for his party to get rid of the filibuster so GOP lawmakers can do whatever they please.
[R]adio host Charlie Sykes inquired if Walker wanted to get rid of the filibuster, which would allow Republicans to pass bills with a simply majority in the Senate.

“Yeah, I’ve said it last year,” Walker said. “To me, I think that would really upset the electorate of the people who not only elected Donald Trump and Mike Pence but the people who elected [Ron Johnson in Wisconsin] and elected other members of the House and the Senate. You cannot use, they cannot use inside-the-ballpark Washington procedural reason to justify why things don’t happen. They’ve got to get things done and as I said frequently here in this state and continue to, the best time to do them is early.”
Seriously?

Look, I realize some memories are short, but eight years ago, Americans easily elected a Democratic president, Democratic U.S. Senate, and Democratic U.S. House. Despite the party’s strong public backing, Republicans refused, en masse, to compromise or work constructively on any issue, using the filibuster to block popular and important legislation.

Dems would be allowed to govern, Mitch McConnell & Co. said, but only when Senate Republicans agreed to go along. Either proposals would garner bipartisan backing or they would die. It was as simple as that.

Eight years later, Scott Walker is effectively arguing that there should be an entirely different – and vastly easier – governing standard for Republicans and the incoming GOP president who earned fewer votes than his rival.

It’s unclear whether the Senate Republican leadership is thinking along these lines; it wouldn’t surprise me if it were. Make no mistake: if GOP senators take Walker’s advice and the filibuster dies altogether, there will be practically no mechanism in place to stand in the way of Republicans getting everything they want over the next two years, at a minimum.

Postscript: I should add for the record that I support reforming Senate rules, and my position hasn’t changed as a result of the 2016 elections. I wasn’t a fan of the filibuster in 2009, and I still won’t be a fan in 2017.

That said, I can support institutional reforms while still believing that there can’t be two governing standards, with Democrats needing 60 votes to pass legislation and Republicans needing 50.



Filibuster, Filibuster Reform, Filibusters, Scott Walker, Senate, Senate Reform and Senate Republicans

The future of the filibuster is in doubt