What a difference a day makes!
On the morning of November 8, Democrats were preparing to blow up the Senate rules to seize control of the national agenda and of the Supreme Court. Harry Reid was promising to destroy the Senate rules “in a heartbeat” — egged on by a press that convinced him that Democrats would never again lose control of the Senate or the Oval Office.
And terrified Senate Republicans were preparing for a fight for their lives — to keep from being “nuked” into irrelevancy with respect to Supreme Court nominees and legislation.
Twenty-four hours later, some Republicans, who won a few unexpected states — by narrow margins — were convinced that they could similarly blow up the Senate as an institution — and that they too would never again be in the minority.
For the record, I had predicted, in mid-August that Donald Trump was within striking distance of the Oval Office. But let me make another prediction: There will come a time when Democrats will once again control the Senate and the White House. And if brain-dead Republicans blow up the Senate rules now, we will lose everything when we are once again in the minority.
In case you haven’t noticed, Democrats are a lot better at wielding power to their advantage than are Republicans. And Democrats are preparing to enfranchise 10-20,000,000 illegals and 6,000,000 convicted felons. Collectively, this change in electoral demographics would permanently freeze Republicans out of power.
And that’s just the beginning: gun control, taxpayer financed abortion-on-demand, forced acceptance of aberrant lifestyles, forced unionism, sky-high taxes, massive regulation, socialized health care — all of these, and more, will be the permanent and irrevocable legacy of GOP efforts to “nuke” the Senate rules.
Let’s get a couple of issues off the table: First, there is no legislation on the Republican agenda which could be passed by “nuking” the Senate rules that can’t be passed by other means. Reconciliation can be used for anything with any budgetary consequences, positive or negative. This includes every aspect of ObamaCare repeal that we can get Trump to embrace — in addition to key elements of a pro-active pro-gun agenda. You can do even more if you “clean house” at the Left-leaning pro-ObamaCare Congressional Budget Office.
Republicans should also actively use the Omnibus to enact the Trump agenda — and dare Senate Democrats to shut down the federal government in order to block a popular agenda.
Finally, as the 1982 gas tax increase filibuster showed, a Majority Leader can impose enormous pain on those who would filibuster popular (or unpopular) initiatives. If recent Leaders have not been competent enough to use the Senate rules to squash dissent, that’s their fault.
The fact is that ten Democratic senators up for reelection in 2018 come from states that Trump carried. Five of these come from blood-red states — and two of these five may move into the Trump administration, expanding Republican control of the Senate. Another two blue state senators may be in serious trouble. Forcing these 10-12 to support filibusters of popular Trump initiatives may move the GOP into striking distance of 60+ seats in the 116th Congress.
This doesn’t mean that McConnell can’t threaten to blow up the Senate. But he should use these threats to force Democrats to acquiesce to Trump’s Supreme Court picks, without actually carrying through on those threats. He should use reconciliation to expand the circuit courts, use the “Reid rule” to “nuke” the circuits back into balance, and then restore the filibuster back to its pre-Reid status.
It’s not going to be easy to put the genie back into the bottle. But it is possible, and it is desirable. The Senate is perfectly capable of creating sanctions to insure that future Majority Leaders don’t attempt to “pull a Reid.” In the meantime, the Senate should treat the unlamented departure of Harry Reid with all the contempt he has so richly earned.
Michael Hammond is the former Executive Director of the Senate Steering Committee and was often called the “101st Senator” when he worked on Capitol Hill. Today he serves as the General Counsel of Gun Owners of America.