Senate Democrats have again failed to pass a large tax-extender and jobs bill because of a unified Republican filibuster. The bill is meant to stop massive layoffs, make sure poor people don’t lose their health care and provide continued unemployment insurance to the many Americans hit hard by the recession. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) firmly stated that she believes Republicans are destroying the economy and the lives of millions of Americas for political gain. From David Dayen:
Stabenow, whose state of Michigan has the second-highest unemployment in the country, did not mince words. “The Republicans in the Senate want this economy to fail,” she said bluntly. “In cynical political terms, it doesn’t serve them if things turn around (in the economy).”
Several left-leaning writers like Greg Sargent have all noted the basic game theory 101 involved. Voters will blame Democrats, and vote for Republicans, if the economy stays bad. So, Republicans have a huge incentive to block Democrats from passing legislation that would improve the economy, and Senate Republicans have the tool to do that with the filibuster.
My question is: If Democratic Senators like Stabenow actually believe Republicans are trying to destroy the lives of millions of Americans and our economy, why on Earth are Senate Democrats letting Republicans do it?
Forty-one Senate Republicans can’t constitutionally stop a bill unless the Senate Democrats let them. Fifty Democratic Senators plus Joe Biden can pass any legislation they want if they are willing to play hardball.
If they wanted to, Democrats could pass a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions that could be used for the tax-extender bill. They could than pass the tax bill as a reconciliation measure, which can’t be filibustered in the Senate. This process would be very time consuming but could in theory work.
Better yet, Democrats could just take to the floor and use the “nuclear option” to eliminate the absurd anti-constitutional filibuster once and for all. Within an hour, they could end the much-abused practice and pass the tax-extender and jobs bill that millions of Americans desperately need. If Democrats actually believe Republicans are using the filibuster to destroy our economy for political gain, then eliminate it—now. Millions are suffering so Senate Democrats can maintain the silly, destructive traditions of their chamber.
The Senate Republicans’ callous behavior disgusts me. Sadly, I’m only slightly less disgusted by the Senate Democrats who let them get away with it because they don’t want to change the made-up rules of their super-fun club. What is worse: ruining the lives of millions for political gain or letting others do it because you don’t want to change the rules that give you more power due to the 60-vote threshold for cloture?
If left-wing pundits are going to express their outrage about the Republican behavior in this matter, then they also need to direct it at the Democrats for letting it happen. This is not a game. People’s livelihoods are at stake. But I guess among elected Democrats and Washington pundits, that is a distant second choice compared with protecting the “proud Senate tradition” that served for decades to stop anti-lynching laws and civil rights legislation.