Senator Chuck Schumer has scheduled a vote to force a rule change to the filibuster in an effort to get Democrat voting reform legislation rammed through Congress with a simple majority.
Republicans, using the filibuster, have been blocking a sweeping effort to nationalize elections.
Schumer, seeking to use the anniversary of January 6th as a springboard toward reform, has scheduled the vote for January 17th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Let me be clear: January 6th was a symptom of a broader illness — an effort to delegitimize our election process,” Schumer wrote in a letter to his Democrat colleagues.
“And the Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic or else the events of that day will not be an aberration — they will be the new norm.”
Schumer (D-NY) has adamantly argued in the past against eliminating the filibuster, at one point calling the notion a “doomsday for democracy.”
A video from 2005 shows the Democrat lawmaker speaking at an event hosted by MoveOn.org and angrily denouncing the idea of changing the rules.
They want to “make this country into a banana republic, where if you don’t get your way, you change the rules,” he said.
“Are we gonna let them? It will be a doomsday for Democracy if we do.”
Now, Schumer argues that eliminating the filibuster is necessary for democracy. Why? Because his party is narrowly holding onto power and they need to reform voting laws before a universally predicted Red Wave comes in 2022.
That wasn’t the only time Schumer argued against rule changes for the filibuster.
In 2017, the New York Democrat was attempting to block the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch while Republicans were trying to have him installed on the court in spite of the resistance party’s votes to filibuster.
If you can’t “get 60 votes, you shouldn’t change the rules,” he said adding that circumventing the filibuster is “acting like you know they’re a cat on the top of a tree and they have to jump off with all the damage that entails.”
Schumer further went after Senators he said were “bound and determined to change the rules and trample on Senate tradition” by lowering the 60-vote threshold, and said, “We made one mistake, we shouldn’t have changed the rules for lower court judges.”
Schumer’s comments in 2017 were addressing Senator Mitch McConnell having triggered the so-called ‘nuclear option’ after Democrats filibustered the nomination of Gorsuch.
That ‘one mistake’ he is referring to?
In 2013, Senate Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, dramatically reduced the power of the minority party by eliminating the filibuster for most judicial nominations by a president.
Reid boasted of the move on social media.
“Thanks to all of you who encouraged me to consider filibuster reform,” the late Senator said at the time. “It had to be done.”
What was once a “doomsday for democracy” is now Schumer’s top priority before his party loses power. What was once a ‘mistake’ is now the only path Democrats can take to cling to relevance.
Still, as Schumer focuses on implementing a ‘doomsday for democracy,’ even as he argues that it is necessary for democracy, he recognizes that getting rules changed for the filibuster – whether a one-time carve-out for their pet legislation or a nuclear option – will be a tough battle.
Schumer has acknowledged it will be an “uphill fight” especially with two Senators in his own party repeatedly expressing opposition to reforming the filibuster.
In an op-ed defending the filibuster as a tool for democracy just prior to a vote on election reform vote, Senator Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) pointed out that her own party has used it to further negotiations “toward better solutions.”
“A Democratic Senate minority used the 60-vote threshold just last year to filibuster a police reform proposal and a covid-relief bill that many Democrats viewed as inadequate,” she argued.
“Those filibusters were mounted not as attempts to block progress, but to force continued negotiations toward better solutions.”
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) similarly argued that his party has used the filibuster in the past even as they portray it as ‘corrupt’ and an abuse of power.
“I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster,” said Manchin, pointing out that his party is determined to “conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past.”
Schumer should learn a lesson from the late Harry Reid. If they somehow get Manchin and Sinema on board and ram through legislation by circumventing the filibuster, they might live to regret it.
There is little doubt Republicans will be back in power after the midterms. With the landscape looking a lot different by weakening the power of the minority party, the GOP will face little opposition in the final two years of President Biden’s term.
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