Webb’s Wrap: Eliminating the filibuster rule could dramatically change federal governance . . . Coronavirus relief & avoiding a government shutdown

If the Nov. 3 election produces Democratic control of the U.S. Senate, it’s possible the Democrats will discard the filibuster rule. That fundamental change could dramatically speed up lawmaking in the nation’s capital – for better or for worse.

The rule currently requires, in effect, three-fifths majorities (60 votes) to get much of anything done in the Senate. Assuming Democrats maintain control of the House and win the presidency, jettisoning the filibuster rule could produce a flood of liberal legislation on a wide variety of topics.

The more extreme Democratic proposals, like the Green New Deal, free college education, universal health care, major benefits for illegal immigrants, reparations for slavery, etc., will probably never be enacted as long as the filibuster rule is in place.

But if it’s gone, those proposals, and more, would have a real chance of becoming law.

The filibuster rule was intended to make the Senate a more deliberative body, less subject to the political whims of a bare majority. In practice, it has made the Senate the place where House bills go to die. The House passes numerous bills favored by its majority body, but many of them can’t get the 60 votes necessary in the Senate, even if the House and Senate are controlled by the same party.

The filibuster rule is to blame, in large part, for the Congress being dysfunctional and gridlocked. Requiring 60 votes, instead of a bare majority, means the party voters placed in power often can’t execute its agenda.

Personally, I’m so tired of a deadlocked Congress that can’t get much done, that I’m willing to chance eliminating the filibuster.

I recognize that it means a lot of proposals that I think would be bad for the country might get passed. But it will also be very clear to voters the consequences of giving control of Congress to one party or the other.

It’s also likely that if either party passes extreme legislation that hurts the country, voters will make a course correction in the next election. We’ve seen that happen many times. Voters will become the check on congressional overreach, rather than majority parties being restrained by the filibuster rule.

Let the voters choose who they want to govern, and then let that party run the country. Major overreach will be punished in the next election.

Coronavirus relief.  The Senate will take a stab at passing a modest version of further COVID-19 relief this week. It will likely be only about $300 billion, compared to the Democrats’ Christmas tree of $3 trillion. The Senate version is unlikely to pass, but at least they’re talking. See Route-Fifty and The Hill for more information.

Threat of government shutdown.  Congress really does need to pass a stopgap spending bill to prevent a government shutdown as the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Neither side appears to want a shutdown just before the election, so a compromise is a good possibility later this month. See Bloomberg story.

Extend unity in physical disasters to harmony in politics and public policy? The devastation of hurricane force winds is bringing Utahns together to clean up neighborhoods and take care of each other. We seem to be at our best in times of physical disasters or emergencies. A clear and obvious threat or hazard produces selflessness and service as citizens drop what they are doing to help those in need.

By contrast, we’re not so good at coming together to respond to political or ideological risks or non-physical threats. Instead, we fight, get angry, and refuse to listen or cooperate. A great gulf divides neighbors and acquaintances along party and ideological lines.

Can we somehow extend the goodwill and collaboration in physical disaster response to our political challenges? We ought to try a little harder.

Parting shot. Need a little morale boost? Here’s a nice, patriotic column by Stephen Moore.