In a column for Bloomberg, longtime political observer Jonathan Bernstein questioned the recent tactics being employed by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) now that he has lost control of the Senate, saying he is playing with fire with a Democratic Party that has grown tired of his games.
At issue is the former majority leader’s demand that Democrats agree to not change the rules on the filibuster for the next two years — which would limit their new powers — without offering anything of value in return.
As Bernstein writes, “He’s insisting that Democrats pledge to leave the legislative filibuster intact over the next two years, or else he won’t let the resolution pass — and without it, the Senate’s work won’t get done, and the majority-party Democrats won’t even be able to take over as chairs of Senate committees,” which the columnist notes is not sitting well with Democratic lawmakers anxious to get going after four years of Trump.
As Congressional scholar Sarah Binder tweeted, “Democrats are highly unlikely to make such a commitment, even if McC sees the ploy as a clever way to split the Democrats. Even if Dems *did* agree, both parties know it’s not a credible commitment.”
Since Democrats could go back on their word if McConnell attempts his usual shenanigans, columnist Bernstein asked what McConnell is up to.
“Maybe McConnell simply sees an opportunity to slow the Senate down. He’s already succeeded in delaying confirmation of President Joe Biden’s cabinet-level nominees, and even if he surrenders soon it’s a bit of a victory. At the expense, to be sure, of the ability of the nation’s government to function, but McConnell may consider that a win, or at least not a cost,” he wrote before adding that McConnell might see it as a way to unify a fractured Republican Party that just lost the Senate and the White House.
He then suggested that McConnell might want to have this fight now rather than later when a key piece of popular legislation is held up by Republicans.
“He’d rather have the fight on something voters don’t care about than allow Democrats to pick a popular policy issue for the confrontation,” he wrote before suggesting it may be a trap to get the Democrats to go “nuclear.”
“Without the 60-vote requirement, and as long as Republicans stay united, measures that are unpopular in their states give Democrats an impossible choice: Vote no and anger their party, or vote yes and potentially alienate swing voters. To be sure, a majority-party-rules Senate would mean significant policy gains for Democrats, but McConnell may not care about that as much as he does making life difficult for Democrats in 2022,” Bernstein suggested.
Writing, “The flaw in that logic is that Republicans don’t actually have to use the filibuster to attempt to defeat popular measures; they could either support them or allow them to pass by majority vote,” the columnist wrote. “Time isn’t on McConnell’s side,” and Democrats may just ignore him and proceed on because they “want their gavels, and they aren’t going to wait for them indefinitely.”
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