Ad Spot

June 15, 2021

Byron York: Filibuster frustration boils over

New presidents have only so long to get big legislative initiatives done. It’s already June, and the clock is ticking for President Joe Biden. Big bills take a long time. Congress will spend much of the summer on recess. They’ll be at work in the fall, but by the end of the year, Democratic and Republican lawmakers will be obsessed with winning reelection in 2022.

But Biden has an even bigger problem than the calendar. In the last election, Democrats failed to win a majority in the Senate, and the body is now tied 50-50. If Republicans are united in opposition, Senate Democrats can pass bills only if they keep all 50 of their senators in line and then rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to break ties. It’s a difficult process that makes it extremely hard to pass controversial bills.

And yet many in the Democratic base, and certainly in its progressive wing, appear to expect the Senate to pass far-reaching, historic, groundbreaking legislation in the mold of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society — even though FDR and LBJ had huge Senate majorities, while Biden has none.

Biden’s challenge is doubly difficult. First, he would have to somehow leverage his 50-50 non-majority into a vote to eliminate the legislative filibuster in the Senate. Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, have announced their opposition to killing the filibuster — if they stick to their guns, that’s enough to doom the project right there. In addition, there are likely other Democrats who oppose killing the filibuster but simply haven’t said so publicly.

So the mission is already pretty much impossible. But say Democrats were somehow able to nuke the filibuster. Then, to pass the For the People Act, their massive and likely unconstitutional bill federalizing elections around the country, or to pass the American Jobs Act, their massive $2 trillion infrastructure-that’s-mostly-not-infrastructure spending bill, or to pass the American Families Plan, their massive $2 trillion social spending proposal — to pass any of them over unified Republican opposition, they would have to rally all 50 Democratic senators and call in Harris for the tiebreaking vote.

The likelihood of all that happening is very, very low. And Manchin appeared to drive a nail into the coffin of progressive dreams this week when he published an op-ed in the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette in which he flatly declared he “will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster” and that he will not vote for the For the People Act, either. If Democrats had won an actual majority in the Senate, say, 53 or 54 seats, losing Manchin would not kill their hopes. But with no majority, in a 50-50 Senate, every vote is indispensable.

Manchin’s declaration touched a nerve among progressive Democrats who saw their whole New Deal/Great Society vision evaporating in front of their eyes. Perhaps “touched a nerve” is too weak a term. Manchin struck a hammer blow to the nerve, and Democrats and their media allies erupted in a deep and primal scream.

“Manchin’s op-ed might as well be titled, ‘Why I’ll vote to preserve Jim Crow,’” tweeted New York Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones. The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill tweeted that Manchin is a “cowardly, power-hungry white dude” who is upholding “white supremacy.” (Just for good measure, Hill also called Manchin a “clown.”) The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson wrote a column headlined “Joe Manchin retreats to fantasyland and sticks America with the consequences,” saying that Manchin’s “party and his nation will pay a terrible price for his hallucinations” about being able to work with recalcitrant Republicans.

And so on. Manchin’s Democratic colleagues in the Senate are being more diplomatic, in public at least, but they are still terribly upset. “Who isn’t frustrated?” one anonymous senator told Politico. “Do you want to see the patches where I pulled my hair out?”

All seem to have forgotten that they are trying to change the country without having a majority of seats in the United States Senate. What are they thinking? In some ways, the Democratic filibuster frustration echoes a weird episode among Republicans in 2013 when Sen. Ted Cruz led an effort to defund Obamacare. The only problem was Republicans, with a majority in the House but just 45 seats in the Senate, did not have the votes to do it. There was not a snowball’s chance in hell Cruz could succeed, yet he kept exhorting Republicans that if they fought hard enough, somehow they could win.

Now, progressive Democrats are urging their Democratic senators — who with 50 seats are in better shape than Republicans in 2013, but still short of a majority — to fight, fight, fight to kill the filibuster and pass Biden’s enormous spending bills. But here’s the bottom line: You want to pass big bills in the Senate? Win a majority of seats in the Senate. Until Democrats can do that, they’ll have a very hard time.

This content originally appeared on the Washington Examiner at washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/byron-yorks-daily-memo-filibuster-frustration-boils-over.

    

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

Comments

Local

Rowan-Salisbury Schools finalizes normal, five-day schedule for fall

Local

Council to vote on budget, consider permit for child care center near downtown

Landis

Landis adopts budget with reduction in residential electric rates, no tax increases

Local

Political Notebook: Budd campaign touts boost in voter support after Trump endorsement

Local

Seventh Dragon Boat Festival scheduled July 24

News

NC rights groups say GOP bills impede voting access

Local

Sgt. Shane Karriker’s funeral procession travels through downtown Salisbury

Crime

Blotter: June 14

Ask Us

Ask Us: When will front entrance to courthouse reopen?

Coronavirus

As COVID-19 cases wane, vaccine-lagging areas still at risk

Crime

Blotter: Man faces litany of charges for fleeing sheriff’s deputies

Granite Quarry

‘Race to the Dan’ brings Revolutionary War back to Rowan

Local

‘Unity in the Community’ event brings together Salisbury Police, NAACP

Crime

One killed, two others shot on South Jackson Street in Salisbury

Crime

State examining Davidson County emergency alert received in Rowan, other counties

Local

Cleveland Rodeo packs house for 10th year

News

Salisbury’s Jacques Belliveau talks mental health, filming during premiere of ‘Reggie: A Millennial Depression Comedy’

News

Sen. Ford backs new set of election-related bills

Business

Downtown Salisbury bullish on potential for more residential space

Business

Biz Roundup: Wine about Winter set for June 18

Business

Local artists draw in adventurous travelers with eclectic Airbnb rental downtown

Education

Commissioners discussing reviving joint capital project committee with school board

Business

Beech-Nut Stage One cereal recalled

Lifestyle

‘All Critters Big and Small’ program coming to library