The Senate is preparing for a war and both sides appear willing to go to the limit to win.
The war is ostensibly over the new and improved Voting Rights Act and the differences between the two sides on the issue couldn’t be more pronounced. Democrats see the voting rights bill as their ticket to domination in Washington for the next quarter-century. Republicans see the bill as an existential threat to their party and the very idea of an American “republic.”
There’s really only one thing standing in the way of the Democrats’ plans; the filibuster.
The Democrats could choose to employ budget reconciliation to get voting rights passed by a simple majority. But the reconciliation tactic is limited to three shots a year and Biden has already used one of those shots to pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. With another $3 trillion stimulus bill being proposed — one that might be split into two parts — Democrats are running out of bullets.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told the Democrats flatly that if they fiddle with the filibuster, he and his Republican colleagues will blow up the Senate. The parliamentary tricks and tactics that are at his disposal — never used because they slow down the business of the Senate to a crawl — would be employed in what McConnell refers to as a “nuclear winter.”
“It takes unanimous consent to turn the lights on here,” McConnell said. “And I think they would leave an angry 50 senators not interested in being cooperative on even the simplest things.”
But the voting rights bill doesn’t face mere GOP opposition. Unlike immigration, infrastructure or even guns, no senators are even talking across the aisle about whether any compromise can be had. That dynamic, coupled with the Democratic clamor to use the voting legislation as a stage for a filibuster showdown, puts the already-gridlocked Senate on track for a new fissure over its own rules as well as the fabric of American elections.
“I don’t think there is common ground. And on the bigger issue of whether it’s better to federalize the national election process or let states and local officials do it like they have for over 200 years — there’s really not much compromise there,” Blunt said.
No Republican will vote to commit party suicide, no matter how many times the Democrats refer to them as “racists” and vote suppressors. The media will be in a full-throated howl against the GOP, accusing them of wanting a return to Jim Crow-era voting laws, suppressing the black vote. The Democrats will wrap themselves in the flag (before burning it) and refer to the GOP as “unAmerican” for refusing to allow poor black people, the sick, and anyone else they think will elicit sympathy to vote
Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema have said under no circumstances will they vote to eliminate the filibuster. But both senators have left the door open for some kind of filibuster reform. Any effort to “reform” the filibuster would kill the intent of the rule, which is as good as repealing it in the eyes of Democrats.
How long could the Republicans keep a nuclear war going? If they can draw it out until the end of 2022, they may get a shot at flipping the Senate. It’s all they have left to protect themselves from the naked power grab being engineered by Washington Democrats.