Dangers to Democrats of End-Running Cloture

It is possible, but not yet clearly probable, that Senate Democrats may seek to ram through Health Care Reform without the sixty votes necessary to prevent a Republican filibuster. Although on paper Democrats had sixty Senate seats after Al Franken was admitted to the Senate that is not enough for the three fifths majority needed for cloture.  Teddy Kennedy is no longer in the Senate and his seat will be filled either by hypocritical legislative action, or by a special election. Robert Byrd of West Virginia is almost 92 years old and in very frail health. His presence in the Senate can never be guaranteed. 

Beyond that, Senate Democrats in conservative states are facing increasingly strong pressure from constituents not to follow blindly the Democrat leadership.  Blanche Lincoln and Byron Dorgan of Arkansas and North Dakota respectively, are considered "safe" seats in 2010, but popular outrage at Obama's health care plans runs deep in these very conservative states (Arkansas has 43% of the electorate conservative and only 16% liberal; North Dakota has 45% of the electorate conservative and only 17% liberal.)

Moreover, for every Democrat who does not support cloture, Democrats will need two Republicans (actually, 1.6 Republicans) to support cloture and every Democrat who opposes cloture will provide cover for other Democrats in conservative states to also oppose cloture.  The math simply does not favor Democrats passing health care reform the ordinary way.  Adding massive substantive legislation to Budget Reconciliation could work, but Democrats should be very wary about choosing this option.

Three years ago, Republicans had enough political muscle to pass any substantive legislation they wanted, if Republicans had used the Budget Reconciliation end run.  What might Republicans have done with that sneaky parliamentary dodge?  They could have opened up vast amounts of America to oil exploration and production.  They could have passed tough tort reform.  They could have passed a National Right to Work Law.  They could have adopted a flat tax.  They could utterly reformed the social welfare state that Democrats have carefully, encrusted layer by encrusted layer, built up in America over the last seventy years.

The dangers of making federal legislation easy to pass are much greater for Democrats than for Republicans.  A National Right to Work Law, for example, would drastically reduce the power of organized labor in America.  Democrats now rely heavily upon the money and the muscle of big labor and Republicans owe union bosses nothing at all.  Tort reform would also quickly drain the pockets of big malpractice law firms, which would in turn reduce Democrat coffers dramatically.  Democrats, not Republicans, need the existing structure of federal protégées to stay in power.

So why didn't Republicans do anything in the four years from 2003 to 2007 in which Republicans controlled the White House, the House (with a reasonably comfortable majority), and the Senate (where Republican strength reached 55 out of 100 seats)?  Republicans did not try to cram massive legislation through without the strong majority which the rules of the Senate have historically required.  Filibusters, as one example, kept ANWAR from being opened to oil exploration.  The president and clear majorities in both houses of Congress favored drilling for oil in ANWAR, as did a majority of the American people, but enough Democrats in the Senate opposed this to prevent cloture. 

If Democrats circumvent the historical rules and traditions of the Senate, though, then the first time Republicans have the White House and both houses of Congress -- which could easily be as early as January 2013, then expect a flood of laws rolling back government, particularly in legislation that cripples the sources of Democrat power, like labor unions, trial lawyers, and the like. 

Republicans, unlike Democrats, do not rely almost exclusively upon federal power to stay relevant.  Although there are far too many Republican members of Congress whose principal constituency is in Washington, not back home, nearly all Democrats rely on trial lawyers, labor unions, spurious "nonprofit" organizations funded by tax dollars like ACORN, to persuade voters to reelect them.

In the decade just ending, Democrats discovered the hard way that the old weapon of crass partisan gerrymandering which had elected many more Democrats than the voters as a whole wanted, could work to favor Republicans if Republicans gained power and used gerrymandering to help their party. 

The hysterical Democrat outrage at Tom Delay and the redistricting of Texas congressional districts shows just how vulnerable Democrats are when the rules of the game are used against them instead of for them.  It is a lesson Harry Reid would do well to remember:  He who lives by Budget Reconciliation will, when out of power, die by the Budget Reconciliation.  Those who cheat the rules had better be sure that they are in power forever.  
 
Bruce Walker is the author of two books:  Sinisterism : Secular Religion of the Lie and The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.
It is possible, but not yet clearly probable, that Senate Democrats may seek to ram through Health Care Reform without the sixty votes necessary to prevent a Republican filibuster. Although on paper Democrats had sixty Senate seats after Al Franken was admitted to the Senate that is not enough for the three fifths majority needed for cloture.  Teddy Kennedy is no longer in the Senate and his seat will be filled either by hypocritical legislative action, or by a special election. Robert Byrd of West Virginia is almost 92 years old and in very frail health. His presence in the Senate can never be guaranteed. 

Beyond that, Senate Democrats in conservative states are facing increasingly strong pressure from constituents not to follow blindly the Democrat leadership.  Blanche Lincoln and Byron Dorgan of Arkansas and North Dakota respectively, are considered "safe" seats in 2010, but popular outrage at Obama's health care plans runs deep in these very conservative states (Arkansas has 43% of the electorate conservative and only 16% liberal; North Dakota has 45% of the electorate conservative and only 17% liberal.)

Moreover, for every Democrat who does not support cloture, Democrats will need two Republicans (actually, 1.6 Republicans) to support cloture and every Democrat who opposes cloture will provide cover for other Democrats in conservative states to also oppose cloture.  The math simply does not favor Democrats passing health care reform the ordinary way.  Adding massive substantive legislation to Budget Reconciliation could work, but Democrats should be very wary about choosing this option.

Three years ago, Republicans had enough political muscle to pass any substantive legislation they wanted, if Republicans had used the Budget Reconciliation end run.  What might Republicans have done with that sneaky parliamentary dodge?  They could have opened up vast amounts of America to oil exploration and production.  They could have passed tough tort reform.  They could have passed a National Right to Work Law.  They could have adopted a flat tax.  They could utterly reformed the social welfare state that Democrats have carefully, encrusted layer by encrusted layer, built up in America over the last seventy years.

The dangers of making federal legislation easy to pass are much greater for Democrats than for Republicans.  A National Right to Work Law, for example, would drastically reduce the power of organized labor in America.  Democrats now rely heavily upon the money and the muscle of big labor and Republicans owe union bosses nothing at all.  Tort reform would also quickly drain the pockets of big malpractice law firms, which would in turn reduce Democrat coffers dramatically.  Democrats, not Republicans, need the existing structure of federal protégées to stay in power.

So why didn't Republicans do anything in the four years from 2003 to 2007 in which Republicans controlled the White House, the House (with a reasonably comfortable majority), and the Senate (where Republican strength reached 55 out of 100 seats)?  Republicans did not try to cram massive legislation through without the strong majority which the rules of the Senate have historically required.  Filibusters, as one example, kept ANWAR from being opened to oil exploration.  The president and clear majorities in both houses of Congress favored drilling for oil in ANWAR, as did a majority of the American people, but enough Democrats in the Senate opposed this to prevent cloture. 

If Democrats circumvent the historical rules and traditions of the Senate, though, then the first time Republicans have the White House and both houses of Congress -- which could easily be as early as January 2013, then expect a flood of laws rolling back government, particularly in legislation that cripples the sources of Democrat power, like labor unions, trial lawyers, and the like. 

Republicans, unlike Democrats, do not rely almost exclusively upon federal power to stay relevant.  Although there are far too many Republican members of Congress whose principal constituency is in Washington, not back home, nearly all Democrats rely on trial lawyers, labor unions, spurious "nonprofit" organizations funded by tax dollars like ACORN, to persuade voters to reelect them.

In the decade just ending, Democrats discovered the hard way that the old weapon of crass partisan gerrymandering which had elected many more Democrats than the voters as a whole wanted, could work to favor Republicans if Republicans gained power and used gerrymandering to help their party. 

The hysterical Democrat outrage at Tom Delay and the redistricting of Texas congressional districts shows just how vulnerable Democrats are when the rules of the game are used against them instead of for them.  It is a lesson Harry Reid would do well to remember:  He who lives by Budget Reconciliation will, when out of power, die by the Budget Reconciliation.  Those who cheat the rules had better be sure that they are in power forever.  
 
Bruce Walker is the author of two books:  Sinisterism : Secular Religion of the Lie and The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.