GOP must lose the filibuster to win the political war

GOP must lose the filibuster to win the political war
© Greg Nash

“War is the continuation of politics by other means,” famously opined Carl von Clausewitz, 19th-Century Prussian military strategist.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D-N.Y.), 21st-Century Democratic political operator, is demonstrating that the converse is also true: Policy is a continuation of war by other means.

ADVERTISEMENT
The most recent policy is the $1.3 trillion “omnibus” spending bill that the president signed, under protest, grudgingly accepting the congressional Republican argument that the bill provides crucial funding to rebuild the military. Some Republicans voted no, unable to countenance that level of fiscal irresponsibility.

While nobody in the GOP was high-fiving for the omnibus as they hightailed it out of D.C. for their holiday break, one man was only too eager to get to the microphones to hail victory: Mr. Schumer of New York.

“Every bill takes compromise, and there was plenty here, but at the end of the day we Democrats feel very good,” he exulted, because so many of their priorities were accommodated in the lavish outpouring of other people’s money.

Meanwhile, Americans outside Washington wonder anew — harking back to the equally baffling failure to repeal and replace Obamacare in 2017 — how it could possibly be that having the GOP in charge of the White House, the House, and the Senate could put Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE in the driver’s seat?

I was a Republican in Congress, one of the new majority swept into office in 2010. Having the House meant we could stop the juggernaut of profligate spending and harmful policy that had begun two years earlier.

That was important, but, because we were but one element of the three needed to pass laws, we couldn’t make major reforms. This was enormously frustrating to constituents who had voted for us because they wanted change.

“We need the Senate and the White House,” we said.

In 2014, we recovered the Senate majority. The GOP could pass bills, but we didn’t have a president who’d sign them. Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and other depredations against our economy, jobs, and taxpayers survived.

“We still need the White House,” we said. In 2016 we got it.

The GOP is officially out of excuses.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran On The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (R-Ky.) is still making them.

Now he’s hamstrung by the Senate’s filibuster rule, which allows a minority of 41 Senators to prevent bills from coming to a vote by refusing to close debate on them. Sen. McConnell only has, at most, 51 Republican votes. So, if he hopes to pass a bill such as an omnibus spending package, he has to make at least nine Democratic senators happy.

This is where Sen. Schumer’s political generalship comes into play. He won’t let his troops make filibuster-breaking votes without substantial concessions like billions of dollars in budget-busting domestic spending — including half a billion for Planned Parenthood, adding insult to injury for conservatives.

Leader McConnell and the Senate GOP could checkmate Schumer by changing the filibuster rule. They know how to do it, or they’d still be dickering with the Democrats over Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Yet they won’t “Bust the Filibuster” on passing legislation because they fear they’ll need it if they become the minority again.

The irony is that if they don’t bust the filibuster, they’re helping to assure that dismal eventuality.

Sen. McConnell needs to show faith in what his House counterpart, House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDebate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 Liz Cheney faces a big decision on her future MORE (R-Wis.), says: “good policy is good politics.” The Senate GOP needs to start passing better, smarter bills that don’t defer to the profligacy and folly of the leadership across the aisle.

If they can’t trust that putting conservative policies into law would be good for the country, then why are they there?

The answer to that question will determine whether or not Charles Schumer, political warrior par excellence, prevails on the political battlefield this November.

The Honorable Nan Hayworth, M.D., represented the 19th District of New York in the 112th Congress. She is a member of the board of directors of the Independent Women’s Forum and the chairman of the board of directors of ConservAmerica.