Given the current state of affairs in Congress the time may be right for Senate Republicans to consider the ultimate nuclear option (elimination of the filibuster). The nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the United States Senate to override a rule or precedent by a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of by a supermajority of 60 votes.
This action would expedite new legislation and decrease the ability of the opposition to preempt bills passing through the upper house. Twice the majority in Congress used the nuclear option. Democrats applied it in response to Republican efforts to forestall the confirmations of justices (other than to the Supreme Court) when they controlled the Senate. Now justices can be confirmed with a simple majority rather than 60 votes. This year Republicans applied the same rule to the Supreme Court so that confirmation requires a simple majority.
A filibuster that would require 60 votes still can impede all legislative work. It is this parliamentary procedure that makes the enactment of new legislation so difficult, particularly in a hostile political environment.
The nuclear option could have an impact on Republican members of the House who are having some buyer’s remorse after passing health care legislation. They know that the Senate, impeded by the threat of a filibuster, will have a difficult time enacting the legislation without massive changes. Some Republican lawmakers are asking themselves why they should step up and support Trump’s efforts relating to health care if the chances of its passage are remote. In tumultuous town hall meetings with constituents Republican lawmakers are experiencing a great backlash regarding health care. Killing the filibuster would virtually insure passage of a bill in the House that includes Senate changes.
Republicans will incur huge losses in the 2018 mid term elections if Trump is unable to execute his agenda. Already his most important campaign promises are in jeopardy and severely delayed. A Democratic political tsunami is likely in upcoming elections. It will set the stage for a Democrat presidency in 2020.
Republicans are committing political suicide by refusing to work with their president. Similarly it is a death sentence for Trump and his party to not implement the president’s stated goals. If Republicans knew legislation was assured with 100% participation of their caucus, the needed votes to push through legislation may suddenly materialize for all of Trump’s initiatives.
Executing the ultimate nuclear option and the death of the filibuster is something not one senator is in favor of, according to Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate Leader. Why would Republicans allow tradition to impede their goals? True filibuster protection would not be available to them if Democrats take control of the Senate. But if they don’t find a way to pass legislation Senate Republicans will surely be in the minority come 2018. The survival of the party may be at stake. The un-American and spiteful actions of Democrats towards the Trump administration deserve an in-kind response.
The filibuster played an important role for many years. But the hyper-partisanship that exists on Capitol Hill has made the filibuster a tool of outright obstruction for the minority rather than a way to encourage compromise. Today the filibuster makes it nearly impossible for Congress to do its job.
The filibuster enables the party that loses the election to have an important veto power in the Senate. It makes no sense to reward the party that is defeated in the election. The majority party knows that at some point their adversaries will be in control. This is enough of an incentive to not abuse the opposition party assuming the nuclear option was to be implemented and the filibuster killed.
Trump and the Republican Party need some legislative success in the near future. This is not going to be possible if Republicans are not united and if the filibuster continues to be an obstructionist weapon wielded by the minority.
Considering the disrespect and venom that flows from the ranks of Democrats neither the president nor House Republicans should be concerned about hurting the feelings of Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi.
The filibuster should be eliminated and Republicans should fall in line with the president.