The filibuster is hanging by a thread. How strong is that thread? We are going to find out.
The past two Senate majority leaders, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, both removed the 60-vote requirement for federal court confirmations. President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats used reconciliation, another evasion of the filibuster used dozens of times, to pass a $1.9 trillion rescue plan with remarkably bold policy implications (e.g., cutting the rate of child poverty in half with the expanded child tax credit). Now, Democrats have a chance to do yet another end-around the filibuster.
The New York Times reports on a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian on Monday that allows Democrats to “reuse this year’s budget blueprint at least once to employ the fast-track reconciliation process.” This gives Democrats the ability to amend the prior budget resolution to add new instructions that could, for example, contain Biden’s $2.2 trillion American Jobs Act.
This has several short-term and long-term implications. First, Biden could possibly slip not only the American Jobs Act into reconciliation but also parts of his caregivers’ bill set to be released in April.
Second, each time the Senate sidesteps the filibuster, the argument for keeping the procedure weakens. The filibuster is hardly some impregnable barrier as some Republicans would have us believe. The logic of keeping it in place, say, to block voting rights legislation while sidestepping it to get trillions in new infrastructure is likely to elude many voters.
The parliamentarian handed Democrats a big win, but voting rights and other measures such as immigration reform still will remain outside the reconciliation process. The daunting task for Democrats to find 10 GOP votes to pass comprehensive voting reform (or even a slimmed-down version of voting rights) will not go away. As Jim Crow-style measures pile up in statehouses around the country and outrage builds over the assault on voting rights, Democrats will find it impossible to avoid the choice: The filibuster or voting rights?