United States Capitol Building ( rarrarorro/Getty Images)
There was a time not very long ago when political parties never would have entertained the idea of jamming through any massive, generational reform legislation without some form of buy-in from the other party. Democrats claim that the filibuster and the imaginary threat of “minority rule” has compelled them to use (really, abuse) the reconciliation process. In the days before the Obamacare vote forever changed the Senate, nearly every major post-war reform bill easily passed the 60-vote threshold: The Civil Rights Act got 73 votes in the Senate, Medicare and Medicaid got 68, the Voting Rights Act had 77, the Clean Air Act passed with 73, Reagan’s 1981 tax-reform bill got 89, the 1996 welfare-reform bill had 74, No Child Left Behind got 91 votes, and the PATRIOT Act had 98, just to name a few.
Certainly, this is not to contend that, simply because a bill can attract bipartisan support, it is all good. But the idea that government can’t function with the filibuster is a notion debunked by history. It is true that the filibuster stops a party that is intent on governing unilaterally and steamrolling half the country using a razor-slim, fleeting majority. Which only means the filibuster is working. And if the ideological chasm between the parties is too wide to forge compromise, then it’s not the time for Washington to be passing wide-ranging generational legislation, anyway. Nothing in the Constitution says you have to pass big, transformational bills.
Indeed, Democrats used the filibuster over 300 times during the Trump years to stop Republicans. (Unlike the Dems’ agenda bill, the 2017 Republican tax cut clearly was a budgetary concern — though they should have refrained from passing it using reconciliation.) Now Democrats want to run the country using a simple majority in an evenly split Senate. And, as they did with Obamacare, they are now negotiating only with themselves. Back in 2009-2010, moderate Democrats, of which there were many more, all caved under pressure. Most of them lost their seats over the next few years. Joe Manchin represents a state that Donald Trump won by 69 percent, and Kyrsten Sinema hails from a state that Joe Biden won by a mere 11,000 votes. The idea that their constituencies — or ones in Montana or the exurbs of Pennsylvania — are clamoring for a massive government expansion written by socialist Bernie Sanders is risible.
The consequence of Obamacare was the loss of a thousand seats nationally, and, perhaps, the presidency of Donald Trump. I’m not sure what the cost will be for altering American governance in this manner with a single bill corruptly crammed through the budget process, but it will, almost surely, make American politics worse in every way imaginable.
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