Getting Rid of the Senate Filibuster Would Mean the End of the United States
This post is authored by John Hawkins
That getting rid of the Senate’s filibuster would mean the end of the United States sounds overly dramatic, doesn’t it? After all, when the Democrats got rid of the filibuster for Executive Branch nominees and judicial candidates, it wasn’t majorly disruptive. It also didn’t seem to be a big deal when Mitch McConnell dropped the rule for Supreme Court Justices in 2017. What is the difference? Well, first of all, keep in mind what we’re talking about. The President in power already has a right to pick Executive Branch nominees and judicial candidates. Back in 2013, if the other party in the Senate stopped a candidate, the President was still allowed to pick another candidate, with almost the exact same views, and send them for confirmation.
Given the all-out partisan war that Congress has become, it just gave them one less thing to fight about without really changing much of anything. After all, IF Joe Biden wins in 2020, does it matter if he chooses Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to be the head of NASA or chooses Ilhan Omar to be Secretary of Defense? Not really because if you don’t get them, you’ll get someone else who thinks exactly the same way. The same goes for the Supreme Court. If Ruth Bader Ginsberg were to die and Biden replaced her with Anita Hill, Merrick Garland, or Michael Moore, they’d all vote exactly the same way on close issues with big implications for liberals. Whether it is the most qualified judge on earth or someone that has never opened a legal textbook, they all view the Supreme Court as just another way to push liberal issues.
The filibuster for legislation would be an entirely different animal for a number of reasons. To begin with, it subverts the whole purpose of the Senate so famously described in that supposed breakfast meeting between Thomas Jefferson and George Washington:
There is a tradition that Jefferson coming home from France, called Washington to account at the breakfast-table for having agreed to a second, and, as Jefferson thought, unnecessary legislative Chamber.
“Why,” asked Washington, “did you just now pour that coffee into your saucer, before drinking?”
“To cool it,” answered Jefferson, “my throat is not made of brass.”
“Even so,” rejoined Washington, “we pour our legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.”
People often complain that the House passes legislation that goes to the Senate and dies. Of course, that’s a big part of what the Senate is SUPPOSED TO DO. This is meant to force the parties to come up with legislation acceptable enough to both sides to get passed. The big problem with this is that both parties have seen dramatic ideological shifts in the last few decades. In a world where both parties dramatically disagree on every issue, believe the other party’s policies do great harm, and there is strong pressure from each party’s base not to cooperate, it’s nearly impossible to get anything significant passed. This has led to both Obama and Trump issuing constitutionally dubious executive orders designed to replace legislation, which is kind of like using a rock in the place of a hammer. You can do it, but it’s not going to work very well. That’s why some people would very much like to see us use the nuclear option to get rid of the filibuster on legislation.
If Joe Biden wins the presidency and Democrats take back the Senate while holding the House, which is certainly a possibility, you will undoubtedly see a serious push to make it so that only 50 votes are required to push a bill through the Senate. If it happened, it would lead to two extraordinarily bad outcomes.
First of all, since American politics tends to be cyclical and both parties have radically different positions on every issue, you would start seeing enormous legislative shifts every time either party took the House, Senate, and Presidency. One party would enact legislation that made massive changes and then the other party would try to undo it and make their own huge changes. This would make it impossible for the public or businesses to plan for the future. How do you invest, start a new business venture, pick a career, or even make big purchases when legal changes could make your great decision today, a horrible decision in four years? Is it a smart idea to use your savings to buy a rundown house, fix it up and rent it out? If you say “yes” today, you could be proven wrong after the capital gains tax is dramatically increased and politicians change the law to keep you from kicking people out until they’ve missed paying their rent for 6 months in a row. Do you put money into oil stocks? Do you send your kid to college or wait a year if you think college could be free if Democrats are in charge next year? If you are an American company sitting on huge piles of cash, do you invest here when the landscape could change radically in four years, or do you go overseas? Even legal rulings could be impossible to predict as each party got in, changed the number of Supreme Court Justices, and filled the spots. Imagine things like gay marriage and gun ownership changing every 4-8 years depending on who got into office.
This sort of political warfare would at some point lead to an obvious conclusion. The only way to have any stability would be for one party to take control and never let the other side back in power again. Today, both parties do things at the margins to try to make it more likely that they’ll stay in power. After this change was put into place, either party could lock the other out of power at will by changing the rules. Eventually, one party or the other would do it and technically, we’d still have a Republic, but like dictatorships the world over, everyone would know who was going to win before the election ever took place. At that point, peaceful change would be impossible, so violent change would be the only option. So, you’d inevitably see increasing levels of political violence, disorder, and an outright Civil War wouldn’t be impossible. Our ancestors went to war over taxation without representation once and it could very easily happen again.
In recent years, Americans, particularly liberal Americans, have proven to be unconcerned about the long-term ramifications of their actions. However, we’re now getting to the point where a Democratically controlled Senate could seriously consider making a decision that would ultimately lead to the end of America as a nation. Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Well, the end of the legislative filibuster in the Senate would lead to exactly that kind of extinction.