September 24, 2015

ANOTHER REASON WHY THE FILIBUSTER MUST GO: Senate Democrats Block Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood.

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked legislation to keep the government funded through Dec. 11 because it would have also stripped out funding for Planned Parenthood.

The measure was all but guaranteed to fail because the Senate Republican majority does not control the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation.

There are now six days left before the end of the fiscal year, and the government could be in for a partial shutdown if no spending bill is approved by Sept. 30. Republican leaders, eager to avoid politically dangerous shutdown, are now likely to introduce a new temporary funding measure that leaves Planned Parenthood funding intact and can win enough Democratic votes to pass.

Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid, dispensed with the filibuster to ensure confirmation of Obama’s radical leftist judicial and cabinet nominees, and of course bypassed it via the reconciliation process to pass Obamacare without a single Republican supporter.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to retain the filibuster rule is another example of the GOP leadership’s unwillngness to robustly assert Congress’s constitutional role in checking presidential power and ensuring political accountability. As David Rivkin and Lee Casey observed back in March:

By striking at Congress’s constitutional powers, particularly the power of the purse, Mr. Obama seeks an unprecedented aggrandizement of presidential power. One way to prevent that happening is by reforming the filibuster rule.

Spending battles and government shutdowns have taken place in the past. Yet the Obama administration’s strategy, denying the very legitimacy of Congress’s use of its appropriations power, is historically unprecedented. It has been abetted by Democratic senators who deploy the filibuster to keep spending legislation that the president opposes from an up-or-down Senate vote. Their goal is to spare the president any potential political damage from casting a veto, and to allow him to shift responsibility for government shutdowns from himself to Congress—undermining the paramount constitutional virtue of accountability. This situation has particularly vitiated the authority of the House of Representatives, which originates all of the spending bills.

The constitutional balance of power between the two political branches must be restored. In this connection, it is important to understand that the Senate filibuster rule has no constitutional basis. . . .

Tradition is important, and eliminating the filibuster, despite its diminished policy utility, would be a momentous step. Yet it is one Senate Republicans should consider taking, given the constitutional imperatives at stake. . . .

If legislation commanding the support of majorities in both the House and Senate can no longer be permanently delayed by filibustering, a recalcitrant president would still be able to shut down a government agency or department by vetoing appropriations. But the American people would know whom to hold responsible.


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