July 26th 2021
Most of the time, Americans pay scant attention to the rules that the House and Senate choose to govern themselves. We laugh when the House decides to go for gender-neutral language, but none of us thinks that makes any real difference. However, in the Senate, "China" Mitch McConnell has paved the way for a rule change that will allow the Democrats to alter forever America's longstanding structure and enable them to become a permanent governing class.
The Senate currently is split perfectly in half, with fifty senators who are Democrats and fifty who are Republicans. It would be nice if that created a stalemate, which would at least keep Congress from harming America, but that's not the case. Kamala Harris is now the tie-breaking vote on any deadlocked initiative. In other words, the Senate effectively has a Democrat majority.
The only thing protecting the minority interest in a Senate the reflects America's strong ideological divisions is the filibuster. This rule went into effect in 1806 - that is, 215 years ago. The filibuster allows a senator, or a group of senators, to block legislation from going forward by continuing to debate a matter unless "three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn" vote to end the debate by invoking cloture. Currently, the filibuster is all that stands between the Democrats adding new states that will give Democrats a permanent Senate majority and packing the Supreme Court - which will effectively nullify the Constitution.
The Senate rules for making rules call for senators in a new Congress to vote on new rules for the upcoming two-year period. This is strictly a vote among senators, and the vice president cannot break a tie. With the Senate as currently constituted, the only way to break the tie is if Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, agrees to rules that satisfy the whole Senate. The fate of the filibuster rests in McConnell's hands.
Thanks to Kamala's tie-breaking vote, Sen. Chuck Schumer is the majority leader. He's proposed an equal power-sharing agreement, provided that the Senate ditches the filibuster. The notion of equal power is a chimera. I did mention Kamala's tie-breaking vote, right?
For a while, McConnell held firm, refusing to go along with Schumer's proposal. But Schumer nagged, whined, and complained. He went on MSNBC and said McConnell's stubbornness was making his "entire caucus" mad. For a while, McConnell held strong.
But no longer. McConnell got word that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have promised that they won't vote to end the filibuster:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated on Monday night that a power-sharing deal could move forward after two Democrats reiterated they would not nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
"Today two Democratic Senators publicly confirmed they will not vote to end the legislative filibuster. They agree with President Biden's and my view that no Senate majority should destroy the right of future minorities of both parties to help shape legislation," McConnell said in a statement.
"The legislative filibuster was a key part of the foundation beneath the Senate's last 50-50 power-sharing agreement in 2001. With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent," McConnell added.
McConnell's comments come after Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) reiterated on Monday that they oppose nixing the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
"I do not support doing away with the filibuster under any condition. It's not who I am," Manchin told reporters.
Sinema's office also reiterated on Monday that she is still not supportive of nixing the filibuster after The Washington Post incorrectly suggested that she might be open to getting rid of the 60-vote hurdle.
Sinema is "against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster," a spokesperson told the Post.
McConnell is out of his ever-lovin' mind!
When it comes to Manchin, except for protecting his state's oil and gas interests, the senator from West Virginia always talks conservative and then votes leftist. As John Nolte wrote, he "did not vote to put the highly-qualified Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court ... [but he] did vote to impeach President Donald Trump."
Sinema is a different story. Her history suggests that she should be the Senate equivalent of AOC and her Squad: she's a bisexual who fervently supports LGBTQ+ issues, was a social worker, belonged to the Green Party, was a member of Code Pink, and hangs out with witches. Nevertheless, she has functioned as a moderate Democrat in the Senate. She is essentially the mirror image of John McCain: an Arizona maverick who will oppose her own party. Still, it's hard to trust her on something this important.
And that's where things stand: Mitch McConnell is so anxious to retain the vestiges of power in the Senate that he's willing to take the risk and allow a Senate vote on rules for the new session and rely on the word of two Democrats that they will not vote to abandon a 215-year-old rule that has long protected minority party rights and that is the only thing standing between America as she was and America as she will be under total Democrat control without the brakes of our Constitution and its Bill of Rights.
Update. Richard Baehr adds:
How is relying on Sinema and Manchin to hold to their promise not to eliminate filibuster at all different from relying on Schumer to hold to his to do the same?
Senators get sick and retire (Johnny Isakson in 2019, leading to Kelly Loeffler replacing him) or die in office.
The Senate might not be 50-50 through 2022. People can change parties. Lisa Murkowski has hinted at this.
I do not see where McConnell has so much leverage.
The 50-50 power sharing in 2001 lasted four months until Jim Jeffords switched parties.
These promises are good for today, not tomorrow.
The change in filibuster rules for the appeals court with Harry Reid, and for the Supreme Court with McConnell, both came midsession, not during the organizing for the Senate session.