Without The Filibuster, Why Even Have A Senate?
Ah, the joys of a Democrat session of congressional control. Where they push their progressive agenda in ways that they know the right will not because the right believes in the legislative process and not in moving us from what we have traditionally been.
While such a session is good for Conservative talk radio, blogs, podcasts, and other media, it is inherently bad for our country. Now, with the news that Joe Manchin may be caving on the Federal Voting bill, the only thing between America and a never ending list of progressive agenda items appears to be the filibuster. Yet now even that is under attack.
I get it, Democrats want what they want and they want to remove any barriers that prevent them from getting it. Yet as Harry Reid was warned during his time as Senate Majority Leader, be careful what you do, it can come back to bite you, and so it did, to the tune of three Supreme Court Justices, at least one of whom would not be on the bench had the filibuster for judicial nominees still been in place.
So why do we even have a Senate, and why does it have a filibuster? It is a great question with a complex answer, but I'm going to attempt to boil it down as far and as much as I can to attempt to simplify the complex.
To understand the Senate, you must first understand the House of Representatives. The House is often referred to as "The People's House." In other words, it is the branch of congress that is specifically designed to represent the people. They are elected directly by the people in their respective districts, and are SUPPOSED to vote in the interest of the people of their district (of course, they end up voting in their own interest and saying 'that's why they elected me,' but that is an entirely separate blog). The House is THE instrument of change in the government, and it is supposed to bring the will of the people to bear in Washington.
The Senate is the voice of the states. Every state has two Senators (a Senior and a Junior), and they get to vote in the interest of the State Government (which should also be a republic representation of the people though State voting). In fact, until the Seventeenth Amendment was passed in 1913, Senators were appointed by their respective state governments and not voted on. In may ways this was a much superior system, but like today, it is pressure to bring change to government that caused it.
The goal of The House, as previously stated, is to bring progress and forward momentum to Washington. The goal of The Senate, however, is the opposite. It is the counter balance that ensures that we do not have wide and crazy swings of the political pendulum each time one party or the other takes power.
Imagine if abortion were outlawed every time the Republicans took control of government and then was reinstated every time the Democrats did. Now, imagine that with just about every other thing that we disagree on. Can you see how that would get crazy? Just trying to remember what is legal and what is not would be a nightmare every four years.
The Senate is our firewall against that, at least it mostly still is. Yet, even that hedge is now under assault.
The filibuster has historically held a significant role in American politics. It has given power to the minority party, and has helped to keep the political changes in our country to a minimum. It has allowed us to know how our government is going to function and what we can expect from it and those in power.
Interestingly, the filibuster has been used differently by each party. The Republican party usually uses it to opposite political nominees that they believe will circumvent the legislative process, where the Democrats have largely used it to oppose Republican bills and motions that were on track to become law. This is why that graphic famously held up by Harry Reid about Republicans filibustering nominees is so egregiously oversimplified that it is painful.
So then, to the question at hand, if you do not have a filibuster with which the minority party can arrest the political momentum of the majority party, why even have a Senate at all?
You see, in a parliamentary government, it is the coalition building process that halts runaway political movements. The give and take of the parliamentary process often keeps any one agenda from dominating as they have to give a little bit in order to bring enough parties on board to form a majority.
In America, however, we do not have that. Our representatives are chosen directly by the people as are the leaders. There are only two hedges against runaway politics, one is The Senate, and the other is The Supreme Court. Yet if you pack the court, why have one? It no longer would be a hedge against anything? Likewise, if you remove the filibuster, why even have The Senate? It becomes as fragile and politically shifting as the house. There literally would be no reason for it to exist at all. Just merge them all together and have one giant congress.
Yet there is an extreme danger in that, and just as Harry Reid was warned with removing the filibuster during Obama's fight with Congress, Charles Schumer has also been warned that doing this might be one of his worst mistakes.
The American political pendulum swings regularly. Every modern President has lost at least one part of congress during his first term, and it is likely that President Biden will lose both in 2022 if the recent polling hold accurate. Without a filibuster, there would be nothing in place to keep the Republican party from throwing everything but the kitchen sink at his desk.
Entitlement reform? Passed with a simple majority. Repeal abortion rights? Passed with a simple majority. Nationwide constitutional carry and gun license reciprocity? Passed with a simple majority. Just imagine all of the great conservative things that would land on his desk and force him to veto it causing the Democrats no end of political nightmares and forcing conversations into national headlines that they do not want to have.
Without a filibuster, it is all possible, even likely. Without a filibuster? National voter ID law with a simple majority. Without a filibuster? Border wall funding and deportation resumption with a simple majority. Without a filibuster? All non fully automatic weapons could be legal to own everywhere with a simple majority.
Still think ending the filibuster is a good idea? Oh by the way, everything the Democrats got through with a simple majority? It is going to go right back out with that same simple majority.
Now some will say, "but not really, because President Biden will veto it." Yes, he probably will, but depending on the political situation, that veto can be overridden. Then, there's also a big chance that Joe Biden doesn't run again in 2024 and if the Republicans are sending laws that their base wants, then there's a high likelihood that they could retake the White House in 2024. Then they'll get it all passed with nothing but a simple majority.
Until the Democrats take power again and change it, until the Republicans take back power and change it back, and so on, and so on, and so on.
Our lives will never again enjoy political consistency; and if you think the political climate is bad now, just wait until our lives rock like a row boat in a hurricane every four years because a simple majority can change everything.
The Senate, and specifically the filibuster, are the bedrock upon which our political system sits. It, along with our constitution and the strict literal interpretation of it, are what keeps our ship steady unlike so many other countries around the globe where their politics take drastic and sometimes violent turns every election cycle.
Unfortunately we have enjoyed this stability for so long that we have forgotten that we need it.
I seriously hope, and pray, we do not have to learn just how much we need it again.