Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a ringing defense of the filibuster on the op-ed page of the New York Times, while Democrats continue their efforts to end it.
McConnell wrote, “The legislative filibuster is directly downstream from our founding tradition. If that tradition frustrates the whims of those on the far left, it is their half-baked proposals and not the centuries-old wisdom that need retooling.”
“No Republican has any trouble imagining the laundry list of socialist policies that 51 Senate Democrats would happily inflict on Middle America in a filibuster-free Senate,” McConnell wrote. “In this country, radical changes face a high bar by design. It is telling that today’s left-wing activists would rather lower that bar than produce ideas that can meet it.”
Amen and hallelujah. Republican presidents put up with Democrats filibustering many proposals while they were in office. Only when a filibuster frustrates Democrats’ designs on the law is it all of a sudden “undemocratic.”
Some 2020 Democrats have said on the campaign trail that they would be open to killing the filibuster, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren remarking that “everything stays on the table.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently echoed that sentiment when asked whether Democrats would abolish the filibuster if they reclaimed the chamber in 2020.
McConnell was having none of it:
“I hope the saner voices among Democrats can help their compatriots see reason. Unless and until that happens, Americans must never let this radical movement gain enough power to vandalize the Senate,” McConnell wrote. “If future Democrats shortsightedly decide to reduce the Senate to majority rule, we’ll have lost a key safeguard of American government.”
It’s fairly simple and straightforward: Democrats want representative democracy to be easy. The Founders made it hard. They made it damn near impossible to amend the Constitution. The rules in both the House and Senate were deliberately created to put as many roadblocks in the way of legislation as were needed to assure that passage would be because of strong public support.
The Senate itself was created as a deliberative body to allow “passions to cool” rather than having the House of Representatives go off half-cocked, reflecting the whims and fashions of the day.
Take, as an example, the recent mass killings in El Paso and Dayton. There were immediate calls for gun control in the House. But Democrats would have looked like fools if they passed some kind of gun control in the House only to have Republicans in the Senate refuse to take it up. In that way, the filibuster is a deterrent to bad legislation and it forces lawmakers to think instead of giving some kind of knee-jerk reaction.
There are many on the right who agree with Democrats that the filibuster has outlived its usefulness. Instead, it’s one of the most important checks and balances to the tyranny of the majority that we have.
McConnell is right to defend it so strongly.