The Filibuster: McConnell’s Excuse for a Do-Nothing Congress

The Republican Party isn’t so good at governing, but when it comes to making excuses they have no peer.  They’re like a less-believable version of John Belushi near the end of The Blues Brothers, mud smeared on their faces and pleading for their political lives, while GOP voters demand to know why the same guys they sent back to Congress to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood didn’t show up like they promised.

The latest episode comes to us courtesy of the new omnibus budget cobbled together by Congress, which really isn’t a budget at all but another continuing resolution to keep the government–plus all of the pork projects and and special-interest favors K Street lobbyists could sneak in there–funded through the end of the fiscal year.  Strangely enough, with all the cash appropriated for Planned Parethood’s abortion business and sanctuary cities that flout federal immigration law, there isn’t a penny to be found for the border wall.  If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that the Democrats were still running Capitol Hill.

President Trump addressed this rather pathetic state of affairs with a couple of tweets:



To which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promptly responded, “No way, Jose.”

Asked if Republicans would nix the 60-vote filibuster to allow legislation to pass by a simple majority, McConnell told reporters, “That will not happen.”


“There is an overwhelming majority on a bipartisan basis not interested in changing the way the Senate operates on the legislative calendar” on legislation, McConnell said during a weekly press conference.

No, Mitch, but there is an overwhelming majority of voters who are very interested in changing the way the Senate–and all of Washington, for that matter–does business.  That’s why they sent Donald Trump to the White House.  They figured that with a Republican president, we’d finally be able to get some of that legislation you said you supported signed into law.  But what do they get?

That’s right.  More excuses.

To be sure, I fully understand the reluctance to do away with the legislative filibuster–and I also acknowledge the balls McConnell showed when he nuked the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees so that Neil Gorsuch could be confirmed.  The Senate is supposed to be the place where red-hot legislation from the House goes to cool off for a while, and the filibuster is one of the tools that makes such things possible.  It’s like an Electoral College for bills in the Senate, which keeps a slim majority from running roughshod over the minority.  Because of that, I don’t think that doing away with the filibuster would be a wise choice either.

But what if McConnell is just using that as another excuse?

Think about it.  The only reason this even came up is because the GOP, inexplicably, refuses to allow the Democrats to force a government shutdown.  Sure, the media would blame Republicans for it–but they blame Republicans for everything anyway, and with the White House under GOP control they could see to it that the public doesn’t even feel the effects of a shutdown.  Instead, they’re acting as if it’s the worst possible thing that could happen, even though their voters have expressed full support–and the history of past shutdowns suggests that it won’t cost the GOP votes in the 2018 midterms.

But you know what will cost them votes?  Caving in to Democrat demands.  That would only make voters throw up their hands and wonder why they bother voting Republican in the first place.

And maybe that’s the point.

It’s no secret that Washington hates Donald Trump and the threat he represents to the way things get done there.  That hatred includes a good number of Republicans, who seem indifferent to Trump’s agenda in some cases and actively hostile in others.  What if those Republicans think that sacrificing their majority would be the best way to ensure that the Trump administration ends in failure, so they can get back to business as usual?

Maybe that sounds a little farfetched, but I wouldn’t put it past them.  This is the same gang, after all, that passed repeal after repeal of Obamacare knowing full well that Obama would use his veto pen–but then balked when they got a Republican president who would actually sign it.  They’ve engaged in failure theater before.  There’s no reason to think they wouldn’t do it again.

The only way for Trump to respond to this is with a veto of his own.  Don’t sign this monstrosity of a budget, Mr. President.  Because if you do, it will have been the Republicans–not the Democrats–who rolled you.

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Marc Giller

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