There has been a tremendous amount of drama of late regarding the power of the filibuster in the Senate and whether Democrats should invoke the “nuclear option” ending the filibuster. Even Twitter has been blowing up around phrases like “Merrick Garland” where a tremendous amount of vitriol is directed at Senator Mitch McConnell while also mentioning the filibuster, cloture, nuclear option, etc.. Now, if you are having trouble connecting the dots between all of this, fear not, just read on and all will be explained.
OK, let’s get the historical basics out of the the way. The filibuster is a tradition, mechanism, rule or whatever in the Senate that preserves the minority party’s voice. Basically it means that any single Senator can essentially block a piece of legislation ala Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Another word that is relevant here, cloture. The concept of cloture was adopted by the Senate about 100 years ago in order to reign in the absolute, unbridled power of individual Senators who might wield the filibuster with wild abandon. Cloture originally required 2/3rds of Senators to vote to end debate although today the required ratio is 3/5ths of Senators, or 60 votes given that today there are 100 Senators. Yes, the math works.
It is important to note here that the Constitution itself says nothing about the filibuster or cloture. The filibuster and cloture are simply traditions and rules of the Senate and have proven over the years to be an important reason why the Senate has fulfilled its originally intended role as the more deliberate, reasoned and thoughtful chamber of Congress. Yes, the filibuster/cloture has been used in regrettable instances but it is the Senate, and specifically the filibuster/cloture, that has prevented wild swings in American law and policies depending upon the whims of who is in power. As a legislative mechanism to promote debate in order to preserve American liberties and way of life, the filibuster/cloture has no equal.
OK, almost up to speed. Let’s flip back to the present. With Democrats having control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress, there are those individuals that see this as a historic opportunity for Democrats to push through certain long standing legislative goals. And these individuals are pretty passionate about said legislative goals. Goals some might characterize as “radical”. However, the razor thin “majority” in the Senate means that there has to be bi-partisanship, otherwise the legislation will not survive cloture and the filibuster.
So, what are you to do when you can’t get 60 votes? Get 51 votes instead. You see, Senate rules can be changed by a simple majority vote and these rules changes are not subject to cloture/filibuster. Changing the Senate rules in this manner is often referred to as the “nuclear option”. By changing the Senate rules in order to effectively eliminate cloture and the filibuster all together, Democrats could get their entire legislative agenda pushed through the Senate with zero bi-partisanship. This is actually kind of how Obamacare came to be, along a strict, partisan vote facilitated through a similar but different “trick” called “reconciliation”, but that’s for another article.
OK, so with the Senate split evenly at 50/50, Democrats and Republicans, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer have been locked in a power struggle over the control of the Senate and the Senate rules. Long story short, Mitch McConnell recently won a major victory in that battle when at least two Democratic Senators stated unequivocally that they would not support ending cloture and the filibuster in the Senate. So, this kind of dashes the hopes of all of those very passionate people that wanted to get their legislative agenda and goals pushed through.
But how the hell does Merrick Garland figure into all of this you might ask? OK, let’s see if we can succinctly explain all that in a rational way. You see, to those rather vocal and passionate Democrats, Mitch McConnell’s insistence in preserving the filibuster is utter hypocrisy. The reason is that Mitch McConnell used the “nuclear option” to get, what many view to be conservative, Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barret confirmed to the Supreme Court. Mitch McConnell changed the Senate rules to eliminate cloture and thus the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, allowing a simple majority vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch. This pissed certain parties off to no end, namely those rather vocal and passionate Democrats. And this is how Merrick Garland comes into the picture. Mitch McConnell and the Republican controlled Senate at the time famously refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, former President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. This also pissed off those rather vocal and passionate Democrats off to no end.
Now, the evidence seems pretty clear. To any objective observer, Mitch McConnell is clearly a hypocrite, the bad guy and to blame for all of the drama over the current Senate rules regarding cloture and the filibuster. Mitch McConnell didn’t allow a vote on Merrick Garland and then turns around and goes nuclear to confirm Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Coney Barret. And that is exactly what we here at The Objective Observer would be saying except, oh yes there is an except, except that this is not the entire story. Wait…there’s more!
You see, it was actually then Senate majority leader and Democrat Harry Reid who in 2013 first invoked the nuclear option, changing the rules so that only a simple majority was required in order to confirm cabinet positions and federal court judges. At the time, Republicans warned Democrats that this would come back to bite them in the ass. And so it has. But, vocal and passionate people tend to ignore and forget small little facts like that.
Looking at this objectively, everybody is in the wrong here. We don’t agree with what Harry Reid did and we don’t agree with what Mitch McConnell did. But who is ultimately to blame for all of this? Is it Democrats? Is it Republicans? Mitch McConnell? Harry Reid? Hell, if we go back far enough to 1806, we could even blame Aaron Burr, a Democratic-Republican; oh the irony, who suggested the original Senate rules change that ended up allowing the filibuster.
Luckily the true and proper villain in all of this is rather obvious if you really think about it. And that villain is…
That’s right, Georgia. You see, it is these Georgia yahoos that, despite all odds, gave us this 50/50 split in the Senate by electing both Georgia Democratic candidates to the Senate in a special election. Note that the probability of this was only 25%. If either one of the Georgia Republican candidates for the Senate or both of the Republican candidates for the Senate had been elected, we wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with. So, in conclusion, let’s stop this incessant partisan squabbling and bickering and just all agree to mad hate on Georgia because, ultimately, they’re the idiots that created this whole mess in the first place…