Today, once again, I’m being irritated by people I respect, by other people whose ideas for policy I wholeheartedly support.
But they drive me nuts when, understandably impassioned, they yell at the Democrats for not ending the filibuster in order to pass the voting rights act. I’ve been hearing people call the Democrats wimps and worse, and how Joe Biden is not fully invested in pushing the voting rights act.
A lot of screaming is being done and as people scream, I mutter at them, “Instead of saying the Democrats are squandering their chances, tell us specifically HOW THEY ARE TO CHANGE OR ELIMINATE THE FILIBUSTER SO THEY CAN PASS THESE MONUMENTALLY IMPORTANT LAWS?
Thing is, I know the essence of changing the Senate filibuster rule. And NO PART OF CHANGING THE FILIBUSTER RULE INVOLVES YELLING AT CHUCK SCHUMER TO CHANGE THE FILIBUSTER RULE.
No part. That is, while I’m sure he hears the yelling and is probably yelling himself — if not in public — well, are you suggesting that when the yelling reaches a certain decibel level, Chuck will by himself change the rules?
I loathe the cliché, “What part of [blank] don’t you understand?” but “What part of 50-50 plus one VP minus two Ehs don’t you understand?”
So yet again, I dug up the Senate rules about the filibuster.
Briefly, there are a couple of ways of changing it. The first requires a two-thirds majority. That is, 66 senators would have to vote to, say, get rid of the filibuster.
Reminder: There are 48 Democratic Party senators and two independents who vote with the Democrats, plus the VP. Fifty-one is not sixty-six.
Another way requires a series of procedural steps:
A more complicated, but more likely, way to ban the filibuster would be to create a new Senate precedent. The chamber’s precedents exist alongside its formal rules to provide additional insight into how and when its rules have been applied in particular ways. Importantly, this approach to curtailing the filibuster—colloquially known as the “nuclear option” and more formally as “reform by ruling”—can, in certain circumstances, be employed with support from only a simple majority of senators.
Again, a simple majority of senators is….fifty. Plus the VP.
Reminder: Two of those senators are Ehs. Take the Ehs out of the picture and you get 48 senators. Fifty + is a majority.
Don’t trust me: read the coverage of those rules in the Brookings link, above. And if you feel really nerdy, Brookings provides a link to the actual Senate rules; you can drool over those if you like.
No matter how you read it, no matter how you finagle it, no matter how many procedures you go through….changing the filibuster will require a majority vote in the Senate. Unless you don’t want to be in a democracy anymore and feel like, I dunno, attacking the Capitol and MAKING THE SENATORS ELIMINATE THE FILIBUSTER! Or…something.
So please stop your yelling. If any of you experts is such a geek on Senate rules and can somehow figure out a way, sneaky or otherwise, to eliminate or change the filibuster for the benefit of the great majority of this country without the majority of the Senate…don’t call me. Send the info to Chuck Schumer — who is a Senate rules geek.
P.S. There is another way the Democrats can come up with a Senate majority to get rid of the filibuster. In November 2022, voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin and maybe even Iowa and Florida…well, you can vote for the Democratic nominee. And then, in January 2023…