Congress: Who broke the Senate?
Mitch McConnell “is destroying what was once known as the world’s greatest deliberative body,” said Robert Reich in The Guardian. Last week, the Republican Senate majority leader invoked the so-called nuclear option to make it easier to ram through President Trump’s district court nominees and other lower-level appointments. Accusing Democrats of “historic obstruction,” McConnell used a parliamentary maneuver allowing the Senate to change its rules with a simple majority vote, slashing the time senators can spend debating appointments from 30 hours to two. Of course, when Republicans were in the minority under Obama, McConnell blocked an unprecedented 79 nominees. Once in the majority, McConnell refused for 10 months to even grant a hearing to Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Then, with Trump in office, this unprincipled über-partisan abolished the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. “History will not treat him kindly.”
McConnell didn’t break the Senate, said the Washington Examiner in an editorial. “At this point, both parties have done their share of weaponizing Senate procedure.” The Democrats used the nuclear option back in 2013 to abolish the filibuster for Cabinet appointees and lower-level court nominations. At the time, “some level-headed Democrats even warned that this decision would come back to bite. And it did.” Republicans will likewise come to regret this, said Rachel Bovard in TheFederalist.com. The Constitution’s framers designed the Senate “as a means of checking a rowdy majority”—a body whose rules make some bipartisan support necessary to get things done. The Senate is now becoming just another version of the House, where the majority party can freely impose its will.
Bring it on, said Paul Waldman in The Washington Post. McConnell’s shameless power grab gives Democrats more than enough justification to abolish the filibuster whenever they take control of the Senate. The rule that keeps the Senate from voting on a bill without 60 votes is about the only norm McConnell hasn’t trashed, because it allows his party to block legislation favored by the majority of Americans. The filibuster also gives the GOP “an easy excuse for why it doesn’t do the extreme things its base wants,” such as outlawing abortion, which would be “political suicide.” With the filibuster gone, both sides would have to put their cards on the table. Ironically, breaking the ultimate Senate taboo might actually fix the Senate.