We don’t hear much about the filibuster these days, because there is nothing to be done about it. There is a Democrat in the White House, the Republicans have control of the Senate. There is nothing to be gained from cutting back on the filibuster. The only question ever was whether Mitch McConnell might make the calculation that the next president will be a Democrat and the Senate might slip back into the hands of the Democrats. In that case, McConnell’s having restored the full filibuster might make it more toxic for the Democrats to again cut it back. But frankly, I don’t think politicians ever think that strategically. And if things go better for the Republicans in 2016, such a move could ties their own hands.
So I wasn’t at all surprised when The Hill reported Monday, Senate Republicans Slam the Door on Scrapping the Filibuster. They have absolutely no incentive to do anything else. If they find themselves in control of the White House and Congress in 2017, they will absolutely get rid of the filibuster. And they will blame it on the Democrats — who did, after all, make it far less powerful. The fact that this was done because the Republicans had abused it so excessively will not matter in the least — especially to our pathetic press corps.
Let me explain how this works. The Republicans have become the “by any means necessary” party. That’s why they’ve spent millions of dollars looking for any way available to destroy Obamacare. They’ve always known that as long as Obama is president, they won’t be able to do it legislatively. And so they’ve clogged up the courts with the most ridiculous of attacks. Too many liberals now seem to think that John Roberts is on the right side of history. He clearly isn’t. His decision in King v Burwell was really one of exasperation. He was saying, “Stop bugging me! There are some things that you need to do the old fashioned way. Go out and win some elections.”
So if the Republicans find themselves in control of Washington in 2017, they will not let a little thing like the filibuster — that they have so depended upon for decades — stand in the way of the kind of sweeping changes that they want to make. They will lower the top tax rate to 25%. They will savage safety net programs. They will abolish the estate tax. They will fill our courts with ideologue judges who make Clarence Thomas look reasonable. But all of that is on the table only if they maintain control of the Senate and gain control of the White House. There is absolutely no reason to do anything right now.
What’s sad is that The Hill article makes it like the Republicans in general, and Mitch McConnell in particular, are reasonable when it comes to the filibuster. Back in 2005, McConnell thought that the Democrats were abusing the filibuster. He was also in favor of the “Nuclear Option,” which he has more recently claimed is such a terrible thing. This is not a reasonable man. This is a man who does whatever is in his immediate best interests. Right now, it is in his best interests to claim the high ground. The moment that changes, the filibuster is gone. The Hill and everyone else should know this.