On Meet the Press this morning, Kamala Harris said that if the Democrats pick up two Senate seats in the midterms, they will abolish the filibuster, at least selectively. The two additional seats, plus Harris’s own tie-breaker, will be needed to offset the votes of Senators Manchin and Sinema so as to create a majority in favor of altering Senate rules:
Harris said, “In less than two months, we are looking at a midterm election in which so much is on the line. Take, for example, the issue of choice. The United States Supreme Court in the Dobbs decision just took away a constitutional right that had been recognized from the women of America from the people of America.”
That is a ridiculous characterization of the Dobbs decision, but it is the Democrats’ story and plenty of voters appear to be falling for it. Harris went on to specify the Women’s Health Protection Act, which has already passed the House, as the legislation the Democrats will break the filibuster to pass. That bill would pre-empt all state laws relating to abortion. It mandates legal abortions up to the point of viability, and thereafter, up to the moment of birth apparently, if the abortionist says that “continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.”
The other purpose for which the Democrats promise to do away with the filibuster is, in my mind, even more sinister:
Anchor Chuck Todd asked, “If the Democrats get 52 Senate seats or more [is the] legislative filibuster gone? Or just on this issue?”
Harris said, “The president has been clear on this issue and on another very important issue which is voting rights.”
In other words, the Democrats would pass their “voting rights” bill that renders illegal states’ attempts to improve election security, e.g. by requiring voter identification, as many states now do. In effect, the Democrats’ bill would institutionalize the easy path to voter fraud that they have labored long and hard to bring about.
I don’t understand how the Senate’s filibuster rule works. Can the majority party suspend the rule at will for any particular bill, while leaving it in place for everything else? Evidently that is what Harris has in mind. But it seems obvious that if one party or the other begins suspending the filibuster in that way, it won’t be long before the rule is gone altogether. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of opinion, but I don’t think there is any doubt that in the long run, abolishing the filibuster would be to the advantage of Republicans. For the foreseeable future, the GOP will be the majority party in most states. It is only through lousy candidate selection, and political ineptitude generally, that Republicans have failed to control that body consistently in recent years.
For now, these questions are academic, as I don’t think there is any serious chance of the Democrats gaining two seats in the upcoming elections. But in the longer term, the handwriting is on the wall for the filibuster.