It’s true that Chuck Schumer and the Democrats voted to shut down the government, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had the power to defeat the Democrat filibuster. He chose not to, and so this is his fault.
WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 27: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R) listens to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) (L) as they attend a press event on tax reform other congressional Republicans September 27, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. On Wednesday, Republican leaders proposed cutting tax rates for the middle class, wealthy and businesses. Key questions remain on how they plan to offset the trillions of dollars in lost tax revenue. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Anyone who’s read the Senate rules knows that Mitch McConnell has far more power to stop filibusters than he likes to pretend. Contrary to myth, there’s nothing in the Senate rules that requires 60 votes to pass a bill!
But what about cloture, you ask? Well, no. The Senate rules are written far more intelligently than that. The filibuster is intended as a delaying tactic. In the UK they strictly limit filibusters in the House of Commons by implementing rules on speeches: You can’t get repetitive, you have to stay on topic, you have to remain standing, and you can’t read your speech. The US Senate isn’t as strict but it does have one important limitation on filibusters.
The Senate puts a hard cap on filibusters with Rule XIX 1 (a):
No Senator shall interrupt another Senator in debate without his consent, and to obtain such consent he shall first address the Presiding Officer, and no Senator shall speak more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same legislative day without leave of the Senate, which shall be determined without debate.
(Emphasis added) If the majority actually wants to pass a bill, then all they have to do is wait it out. Mitch McConnell can tell the Democrats that a filibuster is futile by stating that the daily session of the Senate will remain open – the Senate will not adjourn for the day – until the debate is concluded and the vote happens. What does that mean? It means the Democrats could talk, one by one, until they’re done, and then a vote happens. The bill can pass with a tie even, as long as the Vice President is available to break the tie.
Why don’t McConnell and the Republicans do this? Two reasons. First, they’re lazy. If the Democrats are in the building coordinating their filibuster, rotating through speakers for hours on end, then the Republicans must remain available to vote in greater numbers. Otherwise at any time the Democrats could end the filibuster, vote, and defeat the question.
Second, and more importantly, Mitch McConnell doesn’t want to beat the Democrats very much. As we’ve seen with issues like amnesty, Republican and Democrat leaders don’t disagree on very much. They all want DACA amnesty. They all want CHIP. They all want Obamacare. But they want to go through the motions in a way that lets them look like they’re fighting, so their voters will continue to turn out for them.
Just as McConnell caved on Obamacare, he wants to cave to the Democrats on other issues. So, he lets the filibuster threat win out. Weak, weak, weak. And honest, hard-working government contractors suffer the consequences, as they no longer get paid. Unionized government employees will be fine, but the contractors lose out big time.