(I don’t normally post politics on Wednesday so if you were hoping for lighter fare, sorry! I wanted to vent).
North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis is up for re-election this year and he’s worried — if not for himself, for the prospect of facing a Democratic majority. So he’s taken to Fox News to warn that a Democratic-controlled Senate might kill the filibuster.
Both the Senate and the House originally allowed unlimited debate on any topic (the House dropped this in the 19th century as it grew). The filibuster took advantage of this rule by having senators talk for hours, thereby preventing voting. In 1917, the Senate went so far as to allow cloture: if two-thirds of the members voted to end the filibuster (later cut to 3/5) then it ended. Southern Senators filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act for 60 days before cloture brought it to a vote. In the 21st century, long-winded speechifying isn’t necessary: in a virtual filibuster a senator simply threatens to use the tactic and, if the majority doesn’t have enough votes for cloture, they concede and drop the bill or negotiate concessions. That means the threshold to pass a bill is effectively 60 votes, giving the minority much greater power.
Tillis rants that without the filibuster, corrupt, racist Trump toadies — er, patriotic conservatives like himself — won’t be able to block the Democratic “extremist, far-left agenda.” which “would dictate the kind of house you live in, the kind of car you drive, the type of job you have, and the way you live your life” because they’re all Commie authoritarian types. By contrast “the filibuster forces the party in power to seek consensus and bipartisan compromise to turn legislation into law” and we need more consensus, right?
Tillis apparently foresees Dems taking enough Senate seats that they have a majority, which would make the filibuster an advantage for Republicans. Or maybe he’s just hoping people terrified of that socialist nightmare will vote for him. But as usual, he’s full of shit. In responses to my letters to his office (lately he hasn’t responded, a sign, I suspect, that he’s hunkering down) he used to cite the partisan vote on the Affordable Care Act — no Senate Republicans supported it — as proof it was a bad “partisan” bill. Tillis had no qualms about voting to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, even though only one Democrat voted for the man. Where was Tillis’ concern for bipartisanship? Why not “seek consensus and bipartisan compromise” by pushing for a more acceptable judge — Gorsuch went through much more smoothly — instead of backing an alleged teenage rapist? Hell, why wasn’t he complaining when Moscow Mitch killed the filibuster for judicial appointments in 2017?
Simple. Bipartisanship and consensus don’t matter when Tillis wants something, like punishing local governments that don’t cooperate with ICE or big tax cuts that benefit people in his income brackets. It’s only when Democrats advocate for something decent that he suddenly discovers the need for a bipartisan approach. Which in practice means Republicans blocking everything Dems do as too extreme (in his Fox editorial Tillis is shocked and appalled that Democrats might actually do something about climate change).
I will be donating to Tillis’ opponent, in case you were wondering.