With Democrats now in control of the Senate (my God it feels good to write that), the nation is poised to be treated with dignity through COVID-19 relief bills, environmental, racial justice, veteran and many more protections. There is no doubt that the next four years will make the last four look even more shameful and repugnant than they already appeared. But of course, with Republicans still intent on making life worse for the people, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (this also feels good to write) will continue his usual onslaught of contrarian, anti-American, and corporate-friendly policies.
But maybe not so much. That’s because Senate Democrats have axed any hope of McConnell weaseling into a power-sharing deal for legislative filibuster protections. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said it rather bluntly: “We’re not going to give him what he wishes. If you did that then there would be just unbridled use of it. I mean nothing holding him back.” Senator Durbin is of course absolutely right. McConnell has been an unscrupulous scourge in the Senate for far too long and has shown his true colors aren’t red, white, and blue, but, like his soul, pitch black. He would never use the filibuster responsibly if given that power.
Some might argue that the Democrats shouldn’t limit filibuster power because, naturally, they will be in the minority at some point in the future. That argue is significantly flawed for a few reasons. First, the filibuster has been used with increasing frequency as US politics have become more partisan (and it was never meant to be used with such frequency in the first place). This is because it’s become a tool to obstruct, mostly by Republicans, rather than a backstop to genuinely block bad legislation. Second, Republicans need to learn to earn their privilege of representing the people. Limiting their obstruction power will hopefully force them to at least consider bipartisanship and compromise.
Third, and most importantly, Republicans are so guilty of maladministration (in the colloquial sense) that it would be irresponsible for the Democrats to give them power. It would be like giving your blackout drunk friend the keys to his car and telling him “Please drive responsibly,” except that in this simile the drunk friend is the body of the Republican Senate and the car is the entire nation. Limiting McConnell’s filibuster power is the responsible thing to do — letting the drunkard walk home.