When the filibuster was good!

When it comes to the Senate filibuster, I think in clichés. The hypocrisy of the Democrats’ effort to limit it last week is rank. Hypocrisy, however, is the mother’s milk of democratic politics. Hypocrisy is not the tribute that vice pays to virtue in this case. It reflects the feeling that we want to get our way. Embedding the feeling in high principle is funny its own way.

In my view, the filibuster is bad when Republicans hold a Senate majority. It is good when Democrats hold a Senate majority. That is my position.

Were it not for the filibuster, Democrats would have enacted incredibly destructive legislation that has eluded them so far. The Republicans’ use of the filibuster has saved us from evils that President Biden is unable to work on his own.

My position on the filibuster is laughable. It’s not so funny when it’s espoused by Senate Democrats themselves. They are of course high-volume users of the practice, as in their invocation of it to block Senator Cruz’s Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill a few days ago. To borrow another cliché, I’m so old I can remember the week before last.

I’m also so old that I can remember April 2017 too. However, I needed a little help to remember the statement of high principle in defense of the filibuster by the 30 Democrats who signed the letter to Senate leaders that month. “We are mindful of the unique role the Senate plays in the legislative process, and we are steadfastly committed to ensuring that this great American institution continues to serve as the world’s greatest deliberative body,” the letter’s bipartisan signatories avowed. “Therefore, we are asking you to join us in opposing any effort to curtail the existing rights and prerogatives of Senators to engage in full, robust, and extended debate as we consider legislation before this body in the future,” they added.

Among the Democratic signatories of the 2017 letter, of course, was Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Only last week Klobuchar voted to kill the filibuster in order to advance her so-called “voting rights” monstrosity.

Klobuchar was in good company signing the 2017 letter in defense of the filibuster. She was joined by Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and…Kamala Harris.

Twenty-nine Senate Republicans also signed the 2017 letter in defense of the filibuster. They deserve recognition for their consistency. They do not appear to adhere to the situational position on the filibuster.

I’m also so old — and this really does date me — that I can remember when citizens were taught to understand that the Constitution is itself a countermajoritarian document intended to protect the rights of minorities from the vagaries of democratic rule.

Via Evan Stambaugh/Alpha News.

STEVE adds: There’s also this argument supporting the filibuster delivered in an earlier Senate debate (2005)—

“At its core, the filibuster is not about stopping a nominee or a bill, it is about compromise and moderation. That is why the Founders put unlimited debate in. … It does not mean I get my way. It means you may have to compromise. You may have to see my side of the argument. That is what it is about, engendering compromise and moderation.”

“[Abolishing the filibuster] is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is a fundamental power grab by the majority party. Folks who want to see this change want to eliminate one of the procedural mechanisms designed for the express purpose of guaranteeing individual rights, and they also have a consequence, and would undermine the protections of a minority point of view in the heat of majority excess. We have been through these periods before in American history but never, to the best of my knowledge, has any party been so bold as to fundamentally attempt to change the structure of this body.”

“What shortsightedness, and what a price history will exact on those who support this radical move.”

“This is being done in the name of fairness? Quite frankly, it is the ultimate act of unfairness to alter the unique responsibility of the Senate and to do so by breaking the very rules of the Senate. … This is the single most significant vote, as I said earlier, that I will have cast in my 32 years in the Senate.”

“[T]he nuclear option [abolishing the filibuster] extinguishes the power of Independents and moderates in this Senate. That is it. They are done. Moderates are important only if you need to get 60 votes to satisfy cloture. They are much less important if you need only 50 votes.”

The Senator who said this? His name is Joe Biden.

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