The Senate will face a filibuster Waterloo next week when Democrats try to get a floor debate on the independent commission to investigate the January 6 riot at the Capitol.
At least 10 Republicans will have to defy their party — and get Donald Trump very, very angry with them — in order for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to get a vote on the bill to create the commission. The bill passed the House in a largely party-line vote and Senate Republicans appear nearly as united.
The sticking point for Republicans is the scope of the investigation. Republicans believed that the political violence of 2020 was interconnected. The riots in American cities during the summer, which grew from protests against police brutality, morphed into a general indictment of the white race and American history. How can you possibly study what happened on January 6 without looking at the previous 6 months of political violence?
But Democrats have decided to make the commission Trump’s third impeachment trial. They will entertain no facts, call no witnesses, gather no evidence that doesn’t buttress the singular argument that Donald Trump engineered the riot in order to nullify the election and take over the government.
They don’t believe that the political violence in the cities during the summer was actually “political violence.” They see it as an understandable response to the cruelty and violence of racism.
At least, that’s how radical activists tell them that’s what it was. And no Democrat is going to cross that race line and expect to survive politically.
So Republicans are digging in their heels in the Senate and will not budge on creating such a commission. It may cost them dearly. The only way Senate Republicans can stop the commission from being created is by refusing to even take the measure up in the first place.
And that will give Democratic radicals ammunition to convince the few remaining holdouts to vote to eliminate the filibuster.
“That’s their problem. They can prove how difficult life is with the filibuster if they’re not careful,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “When the filibuster is actually used, it becomes an exhibit in the case against continuing it.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of the filibuster’s strongest supporters in the Democratic Party, seemed aghast that his GOP colleagues are on track to block the bill.
“So disheartening. It makes you really concerned about our country,” Manchin said. Asked if that is an abuse of the filibuster: “I’m still praying we’ve still got 10 good solid patriots within that conference.”
If Republicans can’t hold Manchin’s vote to keep the filibuster, it’s all over but the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, is skeptical that the hearings wouldn’t bleed into next year.
Burr, the most surprising vote for Trump’s conviction at his impeachment trial, said there are no changes that could be made to the legislation to win his support.
“I know how difficult it is. So this myth that you could finish this by December? You probably couldn’t even get your staff security clearance to read the documents,” Burr said. “There’s no question” this would bleed into the midterms.
Republicans will probably be successful in blocking the vote for a commission. Not that it’s really necessary. No fewer than 8 House and Senate committees have been investigating the Capitol riot from one angle or another. The commission would duplicate almost all of their work.
But many observers believe this fight sets up a filibuster showdown this summer when Democrats bring their even more partisan voting rights bill to the floor. McConnell has already said that without substantial changes, the GOP isn’t interested.
Democrats have been pulling out all the stops to condemn Republicans for opposing this partisan power grab. They are ginning up outrage far in advance of the vote to begin to put pressure on the 3 or 4 Democratic senators who oppose ditching the filibuster.
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This time, those fence-sitters may not be able to resist the majority and vote the filibuster out of existence.