Election 2020

The Senate Is Broken and Senator Chris Coons Is On Board to End the Filibuster

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) is known as a member of Congress who is willing to work across the aisle to get things done. He is also very close to nominee Joe Biden. Now, like Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Coons is saying nothing is off the table if Joe Biden wins the election and Democrats take the Senate. This includes eliminating the filibuster.

“I will not stand idly by for four years and watch the Biden administration’s initiatives blocked at every turn,” Coons said. “I am gonna try really hard to find a path forward that doesn’t require removing what’s left of the structural guardrails, but if there’s a Biden administration, it will be inheriting a mess, at home and abroad. It requires urgent and effective action.”

Until recently, eliminating the filibuster was considered a fringe position. Coons, a noted moderate, saying it may be necessary to implement Biden’s agenda, is stunning. It is also a dangerous step to pure majority rule in Congress. Anytime a single party controls the House, Senate, and the White House, there will be wild partisan swings in policy. Recall the passage of Obamacare.

The filibuster is the rule that requires 60 votes to pass a piece of legislation. Removing it would mean that a simple majority of 51 would allow a bill to pass. It would appear Democrats don’t learn from past mistakes. Former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) eliminated the 60-vote threshold for presidential appointments. A simple majority has allowed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to fill vacancies in the federal courts with a historic number of judges appointed by President Trump.

Eliminating the filibuster would allow the majority party to pass legislation and change rules with little to no compromise. We have already seen how this works under Speaker Pelosi in the House of Representatives. Rules and longstanding traditions of minority participation in committees have gone out the window. These abuses of regular order were glaring and galling during the recent impeachment inquiry.

Americans are generally not in favor of pure party-line votes. A pure partisan vote was a criticism of the vote to impeach President Trump and legislation passed during the first two years of Obama’s presidency. Most Americans are also not comfortable with sweeping change. Incremental and consensus-based change is how our government has operated. This tradition has been increasingly challenged over the last 60 years. This short video visualizes just how partisan votes in Congress have become:

The idea of eliminating the filibuster becomes even more concerning after hearing an interview with Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). According to Lee, every member of the Senate is supposed to have access to unlimited debate and unlimited amendments. That is not the way the Senate has been working under the last two Majority Leaders.

Cruz added that the Senate is currently operating like there are two senators and 98 people waiting to vote yay or nay. The leaders draft the bills, and members vote in a very take-it-or-leave-it fashion. He then explained he had been told eliminating amendments is a way to avoid political accountability. Senators never have to vote on an amendment that they may have difficulty defending.

The Senate is supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body. The truth is they aren’t engaging in any fundamental deliberative processes. If the filibuster is taken away, the Senate will become less deliberative. It will be a rubber stamp for the president’s agenda when they are from the same party. It will become a barricade when they are from opposite parties.

Barack Obama talked about a fundamental change to the country in his first election. Joe Biden has used the phrase in the current election cycle. It is incredible Americans don’t remember how much they dislike sweeping change. After two years of it in 2009 and 2010, there was a red wave in the House of Representatives. Likewise, the Senate is reconfigured every two years through staggered elections.

It is also amazing Americans are willing to put the duo of Pelosi and Schumer in charge of the legislature. Their approval ratings are lower than President Trump’s, according to a recent Harvard Harris poll. Maybe it is a good thing history doesn’t just repeat itself, it also rhymes. If the past is prologue, Americans won’t tolerate single-party rule through the first midterm cycle.