Cowardly Republicans Must Stop Fearing the Filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., listens to a question while speaking with the media after he and other Senate Republicans had a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House, Tuesday, June 27, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Republican leaders and their water carriers want you to think the filibuster is an immovable object blocking conservative legislation. But that’s not true, neither historically nor politically. Beating the filibuster just takes guts and a desire to win.

The filibuster, as designed and implemented, is not a minority veto on legislation. It is merely a delaying tactic. A filibuster can only prevent the passage of a bill when the leadership consents to that. That is, only if the majority leader caves to the filibustering Senators will the filibuster veto, rather than delay, a bill.

Majority leaders rarely wish to look like they’re caving, so they put in a rule to allow themselves to give in without looking like it. This is called the “two-track” system, whereby a majority leader can set aside the filibustered bill and bring another bill up for a vote instead. Since the two track system was implemented, the use of the filibuster has grown as the minority has taken advantage of that displayed weakness.

When Democrat Strom Thurmond filibustered the Civil Rights Act for 24 hours in 1957, or when Republican Ted Cruz filibustered a continuing resolution for 21 hours in 2013, those filibusters did not veto their targeted bills. The filibuster worked as intended: the speakers were able to delay, gain attention, and give the public an opportunity to side for or against the bill. The minority had a chance to win the debate by throwing a road block in front of the leadership.

That’s what the filibuster is good for, and what it’s meant for. Mitch McConnell and the Republicans can bring the filibuster back to that simply by ending use of the two-track system. Tell the Democrats that they can get up and speak, and filibuster any bill, but that as long as they do that, then they are blocking all the business of the Senate. Let them shut down the government in order to filibuster. Make them be the heavies.

The Democrats won’t have the stomach to shut down the government indefinitely. They have less nerve for that than Republicans do, even, because their unionized patrons cannot tolerate it. They need government funneling cash into the coffers of the unions that donate to their campaigns, and when government employees get disgruntled, that threatens their funding.

Take a stand for once in your miserable careers, Senate Republican leaders. Repeal Obamacare, root and branch, like you promised. Be men of your words, or be proven as useless liars.