The New York Times ran a very detailed and pretty decent article the other day entitled The Senate’s “Talking Filibuster” Might Rise Again. It contained this telling graph showing how many times the filibuster (raising number of Senate votes needed from 51 to 60) has been used to block Executive Branch appointments. Remember, Trump’s party is the party of the Unitary Executive, viewing the president as a powerful CEO who gets wide discretion in his appointments and blanket protection for every refusal to comply with norms, even laws. Unless, of course, they hate the current president and are determined to use every tactic to make him a failed one-term loser. In that case, all bets are off.
The man who finally broke the Senate, proud “Grim Reaper” Mitch McConnell, finding himself in the thinnest of minorities, threatened “scorched earth” if the Democrats “break the Senate” by attempting to curtail the minority’s right to obstruct every bit of legislation, if not every executive branch appointment.
“I want my colleagues to imagine a world where every single task requires a physical quorum — for which the Vice President does not count, by the way.
“Everything that Democratic Senates did to Presidents Bush and Trump… everything the Republican Senate did to President Obama… would be child’s play compared to the disaster that Democrats would create for their own priorities if they break the Senate.source
Go back to the chart above and read the numbers for how many Bush/Cheney appointments were blocked by Democrats compared to Republican denials of debate on Obama’s, a rather lopsided tally — an eye popping escalation of the use of the filibuster under the power-driven, ends-justify-the-means McConnell. As for Trump, the rules didn’t really apply. Trump boasted that he preferred to appoint acting loyalists to high government positions, an ever more unqualified and compliant species of loyalist, since that meant increased obedience, no vetting, no pesky advice or consent, no need to listen to any kind of debate, the ability to instantly fire or transfer acting appointees without oversight from anybody. McConnell wants credit for his principled stand in not caving to Trump’s demand that he abolish the filibuster, which would have made the unhinged Trump’s power virtually absolute.
The New York Times, always bending over backwards to be fair, includes this factually accurate but context-free analysis:
In the first months of Mr. Biden’s administration, Republicans have yet to use the rules to block any of his legislation, but battles are on the horizon. Some Democrats argue that filibuster reform is the only way to overcome united Republican opposition to pass a voting-rights bill or laws to bolster labor rights or to reform immigration policy.source
The Republicans have not actually used the filibuster yet, of course, only because the only law presented so far — voted against by every Republican in the House and Senate– was done by reconciliation, a budget process requiring only a simple majority (used by the GOP under McConnell/Trump to almost abolish the ACA — missed by a single vote– McCain’s famous thumbs down – and to open the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve to oil drilling — both clearly more revenue-related than increasing the federal minimum wage to a living wage). The GOP’s united opposition to voting rights, for Democrats, is on display in 43 states where over 250 restrictive new voting laws have been proposed since Biden’s election.
MAGA, it turns out, is a determined return to the days when openly racist segregationists could use the filibuster, and the “states’ rights” ruse, to block the right to vote of any but their own — the Civil Rights Acts be damned (filibuster all of ’em!) and same for your goddamned Voting Rights Act (filibuster that unholy abortion too!) and stuff your “anti-lynching” laws too, n-word lovers, (we got a tall pine and a long rope for you in Georgia, boy).
But, the truth, of course, as the NY Times intrepidly points out, is that, in the first sixty days of Biden’s term, Republicans have yet to use a filibuster against any Democratic bill so far.
But here’s my favorite classic New York Times fairness tic: “Some Democrats argue…”
“Some Democrats” argue that a party that will not even hold its leader responsible for a inciting a violent riot to prevent the certification of an election signed off on by officials of both parties, a leader who allowed a lynch mob to roam the Capitol looking for his vice president (to hang!) for over three hours, a party that will cast not a single vote for a COVID-related rescue plan that does not immunize corporations for all harm and death resulting from corporate negligence or malfeasance during a deadly pandemic, who will not censure, or even contradict, colleagues who openly supported the Capitol rioters, continue to defend them and to insist the last election was stolen from Trump… Some Democrats, apparently, believe the GOP position on bipartisanship, even among Republican “moderates” and “centrists”, is not as reasonable as it might be.
What the devil is wrong with you, Grey Lady? I mean, seriously, lady, what the fuck?
Brings to mind the classic history headline from The Onion (America’s finest news source), perhaps the greatest deadpan imitation of the Grey Lady I’ve ever seen:
Fine, I oversimplified to make a point, slightly. Nothing even slightly broken about any of this shit:
On January 12, 2017, the Senate voted 51 to 48 to pass an FY2017 budget resolution, S.Con.Res. 3, that contained language allowing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act through the budget reconciliation process, which disallows a filibuster in the Senate. In spite of efforts during the vote-a-rama (a proceeding in which each amendment was considered and voted upon for about 10 minutes each until all 160 were completed) that continued into the early hours of the morning, Democrats could not prevent “the GOP from following through on its repeal plans.”
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States. Trump and many Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare. President Trump signed an executive order on January 20, 2017, his first day in office, that according to then White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would “ease the burden of Obamacare as we transition from repeal and replace”. Spicer would not elaborate further when asked for more details.
On March 6, 2017, House Republicans announced their replacement for the ACA, the American Health Care Act. The bill was withdrawn on March 24, 2017 after it was certain that the House would fail to garner enough votes to pass it. The result was in-fighting within the Republican Party.source