In the wake of the leak of a draft majority opinion of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Democrats have been up in arms over the possibility that the right to kill babies might be restricted in even the slightest degree. As a result, some are calling for codifying Roe v. Wade via legislation — though they admit that with the current evenly split U.S. Senate, their chances of breaking a filibuster are very slim.
Naturally, several Democrats have been calling for the end of the filibuster — something they’ve tried but failed to do before to pass their federal election takeover. But they think the end of Roe is just the catalyst they need to make it happen.
Democrats have a long history of changing rules to suit their short-term needs. The Senate filibuster is one such rule, and they’ve had a love-hate relationship with it.
When Democrats were in the minority during George W. Bush’s presidency, they repeatedly abused the judicial filibuster to block his nominees from getting confirmed. Back then, the filibuster was a critical tool to protect the rights of the minority party … or so they said.
But years later, when Republicans were in the minority while Barack Obama was president, the filibuster suddenly became a tool of evil. In 2013, Senate Democrats, led by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, nuked the filibuster for lower-court judicial nominees, making it impossible for the Republican minority to block them as Democrats had done just a few short years earlier. It was a move Republicans could have made when they were in the majority, but didn’t.
Sen. Mitch McConnell even pointed this out to Democrats at the time and gave them a dire warning. “You will rue the day,” he said. “You’ll regret this, and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think.”
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Soon turned about to be 2017, when Donald Trump took office with Republicans in control of both the House and Senate. And thanks to their nuking of the filibuster four years earlier, Senate Democrats were powerless to stop Trump and McConnell from transforming the judiciary with a historic number of confirmations.
Democrats cried foul, of course, but they were lying in the bed they made. Yet despite being burned by their own actions, they put axing the filibuster on the table last year, and are now once again making it a rallying cry, this time to protect abortion.
“Congress must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country NOW. And if there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate to do it, and there are not, we must end the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted. Many others have joined him in this call.
But it’s not going to happen. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has already reiterated his support for the filibuster. “The filibuster is the only protection we have in democracy,” he said.
Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) agreed with Manchin, arguing that the filibuster has helped keep Republicans from passing abortion restrictions in the past. “Protections in the Senate safeguarding against the erosion of women’s access to health care have been used half-a-dozen times in the past ten years, and are more important now than ever,” she said.
Perhaps Democrats need to come to terms with the fact that they can’t keep changing rules to suit their political whims. Children complain about rules when they get in their way, too. But they’re children; we teach them to respect rules that apply to everyone out of fairness. Apparently, Democrats didn’t learn those lessons as children, but it’s about time for them to act like adults.