At his first news conference since taking office, President Joe Biden issued a scathing, if unintentional, indictment of his own party's hypocrisy when it comes to getting rid of the Senate filibuster. Biden noted Thursday that between 1917 and 1971 “there were a total of 58 motions to break the filibuster” but “last year alone, there were five times that many.” This was proof, he said, that the filibuster was being “abused in a gigantic way.”
Democrats Show ‘Sheer Hypocrisy' on Filibuster
I'm sorry, who exactly launched all those unprecedented filibusters last year? Democrats.
So, let's get this straight: By Biden's own admission, Democrats abused the filibuster to obstruct President Donald Trump's legislative agenda. And now, Biden wants to use his own party's “gigantic” filibuster abuse as justification to eliminate or restrict it when Republicans are in the minority – even though there has not yet been a single Republican-led filibuster since he was elected?
This is sheer hypocrisy. Where was this urgency to “reform” the filibuster when Democrats were using it to block funding for Trump's border wall, block COVID-19 relief, block police reform, block legislation forcing “sanctuary cities” to cooperate with federal officials, and block legislation to protect unborn human life?
Just the threat of a Democratic filibuster stopped the GOP majority from even taking immigration reform, lawsuit reforms, health-care reform, budget cuts, expanded gun rights, permanent tax cuts, right-to-work laws, and defunding Planned Parenthood to the Senate floor.
But now the simple prospect of Republicans doing the same thing to Biden is such an outrage that Democrats are willing to blow up the Senate guardrails protecting minority-party rights to ram through their radical legislative agenda?
Even in the face of the Democrats' unprecedented obstruction, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused Trump's repeated entreaties to get rid of the legislative filibuster. Why? Because, McConnell said, “We recognize what everyone should recognize – there are no permanent victories in politics.”
McConnell understood that the GOP would be in the minority again someday – and protecting the right of the minority to block or delay legislation was more important than any legislative victories that filibuster elimination would enable.
“No Republican has any trouble imagining the laundry list of socialist policies that 51 Senate Democrats would happily inflict on Middle America in a filibuster-free Senate,” McConnell said.
Trump argued that Republicans might as well eliminate the filibuster since Democrats would get rid of it as soon as they won back control of the Senate. Now Democrats are pushing to prove Trump right. Doing so will only fuel anti-establishment anger inside the GOP and strengthen Trump going into 2024. And, as The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus so ably explained, if Republicans regain power in 2024, a filibuster-free Senate will allow them to unleash an “apocalypse” – enacting all the legislation Democrats filibustered under Trump and more, with a simple majority vote.
Why can't Democrats seem to understand this? Why are they being so shortsighted? The answer, I believe, is twofold.
First, they don't plan to let Republicans regain power. Democrats will use a filibuster-free Senate to build a firewall against the inevitable conservative backlash to their radical agenda. They will pack the Senate by making the District of Columbia a state, adding two more safe Democratic Senate seats. They will pack the House by expanding the size of the lower chamber. Because House seats are apportioned by population, populous blue states would gain the most – allowing Democrats to bolster their narrow House majority.
And Democrats will pass a sweeping federal election law – H.R. 1 – with provisions that include mandating automatic and same-day voter registration, banning voter ID laws, compelling states to count votes cast in the wrong precincts, and prohibiting election officials from reviewing and removing ineligible voters from the rolls.
Unhindered by the filibuster, Democrats will also pack the Supreme Court and install an activist liberal majority that will protect their constitutional overreach.
Democrats are confident that these steps will put the White House and congressional majorities out of GOP reach. But if by some chance Republicans did regain power, Democrats know that many of their legislative victories will be irreversible.
There is no precedent for revoking statehood or reducing the size of the House. New Supreme Court justices will serve for life. And Democrats also understand that government is a one-way ratchet. If they pass single-payer health care, expand the welfare state or enact some version of the Green New Deal, these programs will never be dismantled. Just look at Obamacare. More than a decade later, despite unified GOP control of government under Trump, Republicans were unable to repeal it.
This is why Democrats are so shamelessly pushing to eliminate the filibuster – because it will allow them to irreversibly transform our country and make it nearly impossible for Republicans to win back power.
Marc Thiessen served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
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