10:41 AM, Nov 15, 2022
Unclogging the Senate
tagged with politics
If Raphael Warnock gets reelected, what happens to the Senate filibuster? One of the promises of John Fetterman's campaign was to "be the 51st vote" against the filibuster. Joe Manchin has made it abundantly clear that he will not side with his party on this matter, and this position is enormously popular among voters in his home state, so he really has no reason to deviate from that.
There is another potential barrier to the elimination of the filibuster, in Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. It has been thought for a long while that she fears upsetting Republican voters in what has long been thought to be a red state. But when she woke up this morning, MAGA extremism had a big black eye in Arizona, fresh off a sharp working-over by the electorate. She may now find that Arizona is a safe place to be a Democrat. Also, having been condemned by her party for her opposition even to filibuster carve-outs for various things she supports, she has to be looking to 2024, an election in which she will have to survive a Democratic primary set against her past intransigence. Will she get on board to end the filibuster? What about Lisa Murkowski? Mitt Romney? Susan Collins? What about J.D. Vance, who in his victory speech never mentioned Trump once among the dozens of people to whom he was grateful for his success? A strong message to herald a new era of bipartisan compromise and cooperation would be a willingness to reach across the aisle.
Dream with me for a bit, about a Senate without the filibuster.
The filibuster has for years protected Republican Senators from the political consequences of their positions. For example, there are currently enough votes in the Senate to codify abortion rights and bodily autonomy, but without 60 Senators in support, it cannot come to a vote. Those who might vote against it are protected by the filibuster, so they never have to show their constituents what their position is. In this way, they can stump for both sides, getting greater electoral and financial support for remaining in office, without having any legislative evidence of basically anything other than renaming post offices and funding the military.
If the filibuster is removed though, that game of playing to both sides is no longer possible. Just like in real life, Senators would be politically liable for the things they say. For the first time since our grandparents' grandparents walked the earth with Giant Sloths and Woolly Mammoths, Senators would be answerable to their constituents for their on-the-record positions. Voters who disagree with them would have concrete data about their Senators to better inform their ballot-punching. In short, the end of the filibuster would usher in a new era of accountability, cooperation, and bipartisan coalition-building.
If Raphael Warnock is reelected, the barrier to removing the filibuster drops to a single Senator. The GOP needs to find its feet, and in so doing, could produce some "mavericks," who might work toward the future I described. We can only hope and watch.