The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Arguments for Killing the Filibuster Make No Sense

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, (D-SC) speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., September 23, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool via Reuters)

Politico‘s piece headlined, “How Biden’s resistance to filibuster reform began to crack,” portrays a soul-searching Joe Biden, forced to entertain the idea of destroying the filibuster because of an emergency brought on by Republican intransigence:

Inside the White House, there is a growing belief that the president’s agenda will be at risk — and the Senate itself at risk of irrelevance — if the current rules remain in place, two people familiar with internal White House discussions said.

One thing Democrats definitely aren’t at all hampered by is their mindboggling hypocrisy on the filibuster. And why should they be? Journalists rarely challenge them. But, as many high-profile Democrats have pointed out in the past, including Barack Obama and Joe Biden, a 60-vote threshold is one of the reasons the Senate remains a more deliberative, inclusive, and important body than the House. That’s exactly what progressives, who are pining to destroy the Tenth Amendment, are trying to rectify.

A source tells Politico that Biden’s mind is “shifting and swirling” on the issue. Color me skeptical. But setting aside the philosophical debate, none of contentions Politico lays out as driving Biden’s position make any sense.

You might recall that only last week, the president signed one of the biggest spending bills in the history of the United States, chock-full of left-wing goodies that only passed under the cover of a pandemic “stimulus” bill. Certainly no legislation of that size and scope — either ideologically or monetarily — came close to reaching Donald Trump’s desk when Democrats were filibustering everything for four years.

So, what extraordinary emergency is making Biden’s mind swirl? The Politico article features a barely coherent quote from Jim Clyburn grousing about how Georgia senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff shouldn’t be considered any less important that moderates such as Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin — the main culprits standing in the way of a progressive free-for-all.

First of all, Warnock and Ossoff will likely vote in lockstep with Democrats while Sinema and Manchin may not, which doesn’t necessarily make the moderates right, but it definitely makes the moderates more important.

Regardless, Clyburn’s contention undercuts the argument for blowing up the filibuster. If Sinema and Manchin stand in the way of passing H.R. 1 or a Green New Deal, then the filibuster is irrelevant. Politico brings up the $15 minimum wage, but Democrats don’t have the votes to pass the wage floor, either. Is the Biden tax hike at “risk?” You don’t need 60 votes to pass it.

The “heart” of the argument, Politico notes,  is that the Senate will “stymie voting and civil rights legislation, and the minority in the Senate will remain protected to the detriment of minority voters.” It is, of course, highly debatable that the authoritarian H.R. 1 helps anyone, but that is a political question to be debated in the Senate. Democrats have an exceptionally narrow majority, and exceptionally narrow majorities shouldn’t be unilaterally passing massive, radical bills that fundamentally change how the entire nation’s system works. This isn’t some peculiarity of the system. The system is built this way.

And Democrats haven’t offered compelling arguments to change how it’s done. The crusade to eliminate the filibuster is, as Obama might say, predicated on an “‘ends justify the means’ mentality.” More than that, right now, Democrats are only contriving a showdown because the only real emergency they care about is not getting their way.

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