While conservatives focus on the “fiscal cliff,” the left has its eye on the ball

While conservatives fixate on the “fiscal cliff,” the left, characteristically, is thinking further ahead about how to advance a transformative agenda in the Senate during the next two years. With only 55 Democrats in the new Senate, Republicans can block the passage of left-wing legislation under the existing filibuster rules. So the left has committed itself to changing the rules. And, as discussed below, the left intends to break the rules in order to change them.

According to Roll Call:

A coalition of progressive organizations and the Fix the Senate Now campaign are expressing support for potential changes to the Senate filibuster suggested by [Harry] Reid. . .Key organizers include the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Communications Workers of America and the NAACP, whose leaders are convening a Dec. 10 meeting in Washington of some 75 progressive organizations. “Lots of people have had lots of different agendas, and it’s time to unite and bring together organizations that haven’t been good government groups, and start to engage in these process issues,” said George Kohl, a senior director at the CWA.

Similarly, TPM reports:

Major unions, environmental advocates and other progressive groups are reconvening an advocacy coalition to build public support for reforming the Senate filibuster rules and pressure members to follow suit at the beginning of the 113th Congress. . .The Fix the Senate coalition includes the Alliance for Justice, the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, the Communications Workers of America, the Sierra Club, and the United Auto Workers. Their renewed efforts come as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and a newly re-elected Senate Democratic majority have announced their intention to change Senate rules to make the GOP’s obstruction efforts more transparent, and speed up the pace of legislative business in the upper chamber.

Note that this effort is contemplated “at the beginning of the 113th Congress;” in other words, a month from now. Clearly, then, we’re facing a blitz and one that, from what I’m told, Republicans and conservatives are ill-prepared to stop.

The problem begins with the fact that, as a practical matter, Republicans alone cannot prevent the Democrats from changing the Senate rules pertaining to the filibuster. In theory they can because under Senate rules any rule change requires a two-thirds majority. However, the Democrats apparently intend to violate that rule by pretending, contrary to what the rules say, that Senate rules do not continue in operation from one Congress to the next.

Thus, next month, at the very beginning of the 113th Congress, Harry Reid is expected to claim that there are no Senate rules yet. He will then move to adopt a rule by which cloture can be invoked by a simple majority, instead of a super-majority of 60 votes. And he will claim that this new rule can be passed by a simple majority. Reid can then effectuate his change to the filibuster rules without a single Republican vote, and can even afford to lose a few Democrats.

Reed will argue that, in the words of TPM, he merely wants to make efforts to block legislation more transparent, and to speed up the pace of legislative business in the upper chamber. Thus, he’ll talk about things like the need to prevent filibusters that block, at the front end, proceeding to consider legislation, and perhaps about the importance of making the minority actually filibuster in the open. In all likelihood, he won’t talk about eliminating the filibuster altogether.

But would the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Communications Workers of America, the United Auto Workers, the NAACP, the Alliance for Justice, and the Brennan Center for Justice all be so focused on “filibuster reform” if all they expect to get from it is “transparency” and a more smoothly functioning Senate? Of course not. This is about passing legislation, not about procedure. And once the rules on cloture are changed, they can be used to end any filibuster, whether at the front end or on the final vote.

To be specific, “filibuster reform” is the vehicle through which the Senate Democrats intend to pass card check, amnesty for illegal immigrants, onerous environmental laws, “civil rights” legislation that further erodes the ability of employers to hire and promote based on merit rather than race, and a Christmas tree full of other leftist agenda items. If, in a few weeks, the Senate breaks its rules to change the rule on cloture, it will take only 51 votes to pass these transformative items in the Senate.

Stopping this train means counterbalancing the left-wing groups that are driving it forward, and doing so by reaching Democratic Senators (as noted, there aren’t enough Republican Senators for this purpose). Groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Rifle Assocation, and the National Right to Work Committee need to be enlisted.

If you are part of such an organization, or are well connected with someone who is, please take note. There are Democrats from Red States who should be persuadable. Indeed, it is in the interest of these Senators, especially those up for reelection in 2014, not to be voting on left-wing agenda items in the next two years. There may even be a few old liberal “bulls” who want the Senate to be the Senate, not the House (Chris Dodd fit that description and Carl Levin may fit it now).

But with Harry Reid plus left-wing interest groups lobbying them, the persuadables may well take the path of least resistance unless there is a concerted effort by influential groups to persuade them that they should resist.