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A New Can of Worms

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faced criticism for potentially assisting Democrats in eliminating the filibuster. His agreement with Democrat Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to ultimately allow Democrats to increase the debt ceiling on a simple majority vote was the subject of criticism due to fears of setting a new precedent. “It’s a terrible idea. Terrible. It would circumvent the filibuster. This is nuking the filibuster,” Sen. Mike Lee told NBC News.

Mr. Lee’s statement is incorrect in terms of the legislative process used. A widespread false equivocation has generated a new narrative. A crucial element is left out of the discussion on the debt ceiling agreement. For Democrats to have proceeded to a one-time simple majority vote, which would allow the increase of the debt ceiling by a specific number, a minimum of 10 Republican votes were ultimately necessary. A filibuster-proof majority voting in favor was still required. Without reaching the 60-vote threshold, there would be no means of advancing to the simple majority vote. This aspect alone separates this procedural tactic from outright eliminating or creating a carve-out for the filibuster. Indeed, it was part of an overall convoluted method to increase the debt ceiling, but the filibuster itself remained untouched. Mr. Lee could have expressed a valid point of concern about how this course of action could eventually reshape precedent.

The agreement on the debt ceiling has allowed Democrats to employ a deceptive messaging campaign. Democrats have begun utilizing this to legitimize their desire to eliminate outright, reform, or create an issue-based carve out of the filibuster. If it can apply to raising the debt ceiling, why not voting rights? The answer is simple but unhelpful to the cause. Democrats cannot get 10 Republicans to support a simple majority vote on voting rights legislation. But of course, reality does not matter when pursuing an agenda. The false equivocation being propagated is apparent to anyone not willfully blinded by partisan rhetoric.

You will see Democrat Senators such as Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia attempt to equate the two.

The obvious fallacy of this statement is that Democrats did not raise the debt ceiling alone. Mr. Warnock conveniently leaves out that very relevant piece of the puzzle out. Democrats would not have been about to raise the debt ceiling without the 14 Republicans who allowed the majority only vote to proceed. There would certainly not be 14 Republicans voting in favor to move to a simple majority vote on the Freedom to Vote Act or John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

With Build Back Better on the sidelines for now due to an array of disagreements with Sen. Manchin of West Virginia and other aspects still being worked out. Democrats have brought voting rights legislation to the forefront. Prioritizing an attempt to address what many advocates have said should have been their top priority from the start. Persuading their two primary Democrat holdouts, Mr. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, to support reforming or eliminating the filibuster has not succeeded. Ms. Sinema on Wednesday released a statement reaffirming her support for the 60-vote threshold. Meanwhile, Mr. Manchin has said he would like any changes to be bipartisan. “All of my discussions have been with bipartisan, Republicans and Democrats. The rules change should be done to be where we all have input in this rules change because we’re going to have to live with it,” Mr. Manchin said. Mr. Manchin has met with Republicans to discuss smaller bipartisan measures which would be more akin to improving the overall functionality of the Senate.

Resolving the debt ceiling dilemma may have contributed to a recent change of heart by some Democrats. “We’ve been here almost a year, and we’ve seen enough: It’s time to change the filibuster to protect voting rights,” Democrat Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado said in a statement. Democrat Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire also recently announced on the Senate floor her support for eliminating the filibuster in the name of passing voting rights legislation.

It certainly appears the recent debt ceiling resolution has at least accelerated these recent turn of events. Though it would be safe to assume even if the debt ceiling increase was smooth sailing, Democrats would have eventually gone down this same road. Undeniably it is now the Democrat calling card and a vehicle for Democrats to drive home their agenda.

Fore and foremost, this is not being done in the name of creating a more functional Democratic Senate. The task at hand for Democrats is to devise a legislative approach easing their ability to pass an agenda item, if not multiple agenda items. Call me cynical, but there would be no mention of voting rights legislation if Democrats held the advantage in gerrymandering or did not see an advantageous method of increasing their support. Never forget there is always an ulterior motive in every piece of legislation without exception.

Image Credit: “December 10 march for voting rights” by Michael Fleshman is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


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