Sunday, June 13, 2021


Ross Douthat believes that the filbuster is a good thing right now because Democrats don't have a mandate for truly progressive change.
... in reality the Democrats have a relatively thin majority, opposed by a very large minority. The national presidential vote in 2020 was roughly 51 percent to 47 percent; the national vote for the House of Representatives was about 51 to 48 percent. These are clear victories, but not the margins of a transformative majority.
Trump and George W. Bush gave us massive tax cuts for the rich after losing the popular vote. Bush gave us the Iraq War in his "countermajoritarian" first term, and Trump gave us three far-right Supreme Court justices in his term. Perhaps it's inappropriate for parties to govern as if they have a massive mandate from the voters unless they actually do, but that rule should apply to Republicans as well as Democrats, right, Ross? And if it doesn't apply to Republicans, why should it aply to Democrats?

But Douthat believes the Democrats could pass some legislation even with a filibuster:
... there is a half measure available that [Senator Joe] Manchin should consider as an alternative to abolition: weakening the filibuster by taking its threshold to 55 votes instead of 60.

As a practical matter a 55-vote threshold puts a lot of things that the West Virginia senator favors more in play — from the gun-control measure he hashed out with Pat Toomey in the Obama years to infrastructure spending and the Jan. 6 commission in this presidency — while still throwing up a strong impediment to ideological legislating.... It adapts the filibuster in a reasonable way to our age of heightened polarization, maintaining protections for the minority, while making some deals that used to be possible available again.
The Manchin-Toomey gun bill requiring background checks on all commercial gun sales got 54 votes in the Senate in 2013. The January 6 commission also got 54 Senate votes last month. It's almost as if Senate Republicans are consistently sending a message not only that they'll block legislation supported by the majority, but that they would block it even if the filibuster threshold were cut to 55.

And really, it doesn't matter what the cutoff is, as long as it's higher than 50. Mitch McConnell will limit the number of people in his caucus who are granted leeway to cross the aisle, in order to ensure that nothing important passes over Republican objections (with the exception of simple-majority bills passed under reconciliation).

A change in the cutoff would be a slight improvement, as would a return to talking filibusters (which is what Manchin's predecessor Robert Byrd wanted, as Yastreblyansky reminded us a few days ago). But genuine bipartisanship would mean Republicans occasionally voting for Democratic bills in large enough numbers to give Democrats victories, not just making empty gestures by voting with the Dems on bills they know will never reach the filibuster threshold. There's no reason to believe that even the few Republicans who like to be seen as aisle-crossers will ever allow a series of Democratic victories to happen, or that McConnell will grant them permission to do so. The last Republican senator to defy the party that way was John McCain on Obamacare repeal, and he was dying. A 55-vote threshold won't make votes like that any more frequent.

No comments: