Why the stakes are excessive for each events: NPR

Former President Barack Obama called on the Senate to get rid of the filibuster if necessary to secure the vote at the funeral of the late Congressman and civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga, last year. ALYSSA POINTER / POOL / AFP via Getty Images Hide caption

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Former President Barack Obama called on the Senate to get rid of the filibuster if necessary to secure the vote at the funeral of the late Congressman and civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga, last year.

ALYSSA POINTER / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

For a growing number of Democrats, the filibuster is a huge obstacle to anything they want to accomplish. At last year’s funeral for congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis, former President Barack Obama listed some of them: ending partisan gerrymandering, election day national holiday, and statehood for Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.

“And if all of this requires the removal of the filibuster – another relic of Jim Crow – in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do,” Obama said, continuing the debate on the Senate trial, which a Minority party with 41 votes to stop most laws.

Obama defined the filibuster debate as an existential issue for the future of American democracy. Now that the Democrats have control of the White House and Congress for the first time in a decade, and voting is a top priority, Obama’s reasoning has become central to the party.

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Even President Biden, an advocate of Senate tradition who has defied calls to scrap the filibuster, opened a path last week to someday support its demise, and he advocated the idea that it was a civil rights issue.

Now that the filibuster is the biggest obstacle to Biden’s agenda, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., threatens the GOP: Compromise with us or we’ll destroy the filibuster. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Has a counter-threat that the destruction of the Filibuster will bring a “nuclear winter” to the Senate.

“No one serving in this chamber can imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,” McConnell said.

He warned of a “100 car pile” with constant quorum calls and senators who had to be physically present in the Capitol day and night for the Chamber to function. Then he gave the Democrats a picture of what he believed would happen if the Republicans regained control of the majority: “We would not just wipe out any liberal change that harms the country. We would make America more conservative by all means Strengthening politics without it happening The other side. “

That could mean a long list of amortization: nationwide right to work, planned parenthood relief and protected cities, hidden reciprocity in all 50 states.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 20 years, it’s when Mitch McConnell poses a threat, Mitch McConnell follows with a threat,” said Josh Holmes, McConnell’s former chief of staff.

But Democrats don’t seem scared. A scorched earth Senate would be difficult for McConnell to maintain because Republicans would suffer too. Plus, it’s not easy to overturn popular legislation, which Republicans learned when they got a majority and failed to get 51 votes after nearly a decade of campaigning to repeal the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Warned Democrats against scrapping the filibuster, saying he would use procedures to turn the Senate into “a bunch of 100 cars, nothing moving”. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images Hide caption

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Warned Democrats against scrapping the filibuster, saying he would use procedures to turn the Senate into “a bunch of 100 cars, nothing moving”.

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This isn’t the first time Senators are considering changing the filibuster. It once took 67 votes to break the filibuster; This has been reduced to 60. An exception was made for fiscal policy with the budget reconciliation process that passed Obamacare, the 2017 GOP tax cut bill, and President Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion pandemic aid package.

In 2013, Democratic majority leader Harry Reid abolished the filibuster for the cabinet, other executive candidates, and lower court judges. In 2017, after Republicans captured both Houses of Congress and the White House, McConnell extended that exemption to Supreme Court candidates.

This means that it takes 60 votes to pass a law, but only 51 to give someone a lifetime power to decide whether that law is constitutional.

“Lo and behold, within the next six years the Republicans not only made use of it, they tried three times as many judges as the Democrats in the same amount of time. They confirmed three Supreme Court justices,” he told Holmes. “What he has achieved with judicial officer nominations over the past four years is like a conservative moment on Mt. Rushmore.”

The history of the filibuster is inextricably linked with the struggle for equality. From the end of the reconstruction until 1964, the filibuster was used almost exclusively to block civil rights laws.

After that, its appeal spread far beyond the segregationist cause.

“Other senators saw how effective it was as a civil rights obstruction legislative tool and decided to experiment with it on their own pet issues,” said Democrat Adam Jentleson, chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the book’s author Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy.

Since the era of civil rights, the filibuster has become more user-friendly. Senators didn’t have to stand on the floor and keep talking like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. A simple call to the Senate cloakroom was all it took to start a filibuster. As it became painless to use, more and more senators began to use it.

“So we now consider it an accepted fact of life that anything that happens in the Senate takes 60 votes,” Jentleson said.

Jimmy Stewart’s 1939 appearance in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington helped shape the perception of a filibuster in the Senate where a legislature spoke for hours. This has not been the case for decades, but President Biden supports the return to that style. Columbia / Kobal / Shutterstock / Columbia / Kobal / Shutterstock Hide Caption

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Jimmy Stewart’s 1939 appearance in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington helped shape the perception of a filibuster in the Senate where a legislature spoke for hours. This has not been the case for decades, but President Biden supports the return to that style.

Columbia / Kobal / Shutterstock / Columbia / Kobal / Shutterstock

Democrats and Republicans alike learned to love the filibuster when they were in the Senate minority and detest him when they were in the majority.

So far, however, opponents of the legislative filibuster do not have the 50 democratic votes they need to end it. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and others may be open to change, but not to eliminating the filibuster altogether. To convince any Democratic senator to abandon the filibuster, it would have to be tied to a bill that the public really wants to pass, according to Jentleson.

“If you ask the public about the filibuster in the abstract, it usually comes in between 50 and 50. However, if you add it to a popular topic, the poll shifts dramatically and the public is very much in favor of reform,” he said.

Democrats say they’ll have to wait and see if the Republicans are blocking popular parts of Biden’s agenda, perhaps infrastructure, background gun controls, an increase in the minimum wage or a renewal of the voting rights law.

“Combining filibuster reform with very popular politics is the way to go. The public has shown time and again that they want results. They want their lawmakers to implement popular policies that make their lives better. And they aren’t particularly concerned about the procedures they are using. ” Lawmakers are using this to make this happen, “Jentleson said.

Then there is President Biden’s question. He has talked about the kind of reform Manchin wants to see, going back to the days when a senator had to stand on the floor for hours talking to make it, as Manchin put it, “more painful” for filibusters.

While members of both parties agree that the filibuster is unlikely to last much longer in its current form, it is also not clear that the return of the speaking filibuster would break the Senate deadlock. At his press conference on Thursday, Biden appeared to be signaling that he could envision a drastic scenario that would lead him to do away with the filibuster entirely.

“If there is total lockdown and chaos as a result of the filibuster, we have to go beyond what I’m talking about,” said Biden.

A reporter followed after Biden said he agreed with Obama’s definition of the filibuster as a “relic of Jim Crow”. Why isn’t that reason enough to get rid of it?

Biden had to think for a moment.

“Successful electoral politics is the art of the possible,” he replied.

While many Democrats see the possibility of preventing a minority party from blocking widespread legislation, Biden made it clear that he has still not given up on the cooperation and bipartisanism he promised not to bring back to Washington yet.

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