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Tags: filibuster

The Filibuster and American Balance

mitch mcconnell wearing a surgical mask
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning Democrats to be careful what they wish for in getting rid of the filibuster. (AP)

Frank Pavone By Friday, 26 March 2021 10:08 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Chuck Schumer and his Senate Democrats are watching with envy as their counterparts in the House ram through all manner of extremist legislation courtesy of their slight numerical advantage over Republicans.

Bills to facilitate a federal takeover of the election process while all but ensuring Democrat victories at the polls (H.R. 1), to ensure taxpayer-funded abortion in all 50 states (H.R. 5), and to repeal the deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment are some of the recently passed measures.

What are envious Senate Democrats to do?

Their temptation is to kill the filibuster, a rule that calls for a 60-vote majority to end debate and advance a bill. It ensures at least a minimum of bipartisan support and relies on an understanding of the US Senate that seems to have been forgotten, but that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently reminded his colleagues about in two short floor speeches (here and here).

In American political tradition, we hear the Senate described as the saucer that cools the tea. The House is the place where legislation may bubble up that would outrage half the country. But the Senate is meant to be the greatest deliberative body on earth, and by rules that make it harder to get legislation passed, it is meant to ensure a stronger degree of consensus among the American people about the laws under which everyone has to live.

James Madison, in the Federalist Papers, called the Senate a "complicated check" on legislation. The filibuster is one of the ways that check operates.

The Democrats didn't always hate the filibuster. Chuck Schumer sounded a similar theme in 2017, when the Democrats were the minority party in the Senate:

"The legislative filibuster is the most important distinction between the Senate and the House. Without the 60-vote threshold for legislation, the Senate becomes … much more subject to the winds of short-term electoral change. No senator would like to see that happen."

But that is exactly what all but two Democrat senators want to see happen now that the Republican majority in the 116th Congress has devolved into a 50-50 split in the 117th.

In an op-ed he wrote for The Wall Street Journal, McConnell said some of the Democrats are confident that ending the filibuster would mean "nothing would stand between them and their agenda."

But McConnell has been cautioning Democrats to be careful what they wish for. If they kill the filibuster, he has warned, Republicans could withdraw their unanimous consent, which governs every action the Senate undertakes, including turning on the lights. Without it, a quorum of 51 senators (for which the Vice-President does not count) would have to be present before that switch could be flipped or the Equality Act voted on.

The Democrats couldn't get a quorum even if all 50 of them were present all the time. (If you have ever watched the live floor proceedings, you know that never happens.)

"The Senate would be like a 100-car pileup," McConnell said. "Nothing moving."

The Democrats could, for the sake of our democracy, respect the rules. They won't though. Instead they will pressure the two Democrats who have vowed to hold the line on the 60-vote threshold, West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema.

But getting those two to change their minds is not the Democrats' only strategy: They've also pulled out the big gun and declared the filibuster racist.

Here's failed presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren: "The filibuster has deep roots in racism, and it should not be permitted to serve that function, or to create a veto for the minority. In a democracy, it's majority rules."

Civil rights activist Rashad Robinson opined in USA Today that the filibuster has "an enduring connection to racism," citing former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond's record-setting 24-hour attempt to hold up the 1957 Civil Rights Act, which passed anyway.

The Atlantic topped an anti-filibuster screed penned by a former Obama speechwriter with this headline: "The Senate Filibuster is Another Monument to White Supremacy."

Not much survives once the racist card is played. Not statues of Frederick Douglass or Abraham Lincoln, not Uncle Ben or Aunt Jemima, not even Dr. Seuss.

The repeal of the Senate filibuster would be one of the most consequential losses to our democracy. It would subject the nation to a dizzying see-saw of opposing policies on fundamental matters with every election season. It would threaten not only our system of checks and balances, but eventually the very existence of a two-party system.

It would not, however, change the hearts and minds of the American people who are outraged at the extremism of today's Democrat Party.

It is easy to support the filibuster when one's party is in the minority, and to oppose it when one's party is in the majority, and the filibuster is the only obstacle in the way of advancing one's agenda.

But that is precisely its value. The good of the nation is bigger than the agenda of either party.

Fr. Frank Pavone is one of the most prominent anti-abortion leaders in the world. He became a Catholic priest in 1988 under Cardinal John O'Connor in New York. In 1993 he became the fulltime National Director of Priests for Life. He is also the President of the National Pro-life Religious Council, and the National Pastoral Director of the Silent No More Campaign and of Rachel's Vineyard, the world's largest ministry of healing after abortion. He travels the nation assisting pro-life advocates to end abortion, and broadcasts regularly on television, radio, and internet. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Paul II, and the Trump Campaign are among those who have sought his input on pro-life matters. He has helped foster the anti-abortion activities of the Catholic Church worldwide by having served at the Vatican as an official of the Pontifical Council for the Family and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Read Fr. Frank Pavone Reports — More Here.

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Chuck Schumer and his Senate Democrats are watching with envy as their counterparts in the House ram through all manner of extremist legislation courtesy of their slight numerical advantage over Republicans.
Friday, 26 March 2021 10:08 AM
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