Reprint. Ben Sasse to Dems: How come the filibuster wasn’t “racist” when you used it to block Tim Scott’s police reform bill? How about Kamala signing a letter asking that the filibuster remain why then and not now? Tim Scott’s not house broke, that’s why.
A good speech, worth watching in full if you can spare the time but certainly at least five minutes’ worth from the point where I’ve cued up the clip below. “The filibuster is racist” is a common talking point of late among Senate Democrats, a caucus that just wrapped four years of using that same racist implement to obstruct the Republican agenda. But the man who took the argument fully mainstream was Barack Obama, a former filibusterer himself in the Senate, who used the occasion of John Lewis’s funeral last summer to remind his party that the procedure had been used to block civil-rights legislation. Our first black president was looking ahead to a possible Biden presidency, remembering how successful McConnell had been in thwarting Hopenchange and signaling to his party that they should feel free to demagogue centrist Dems inclined to let that degree of obstruction recur.
Believe the filibuster is worth preserving? Then you’re the son and heir of Jim Crow.
The Democratic answer to Sasse’s question of why it wasn’t racist to filibuster Scott’s bill or some Trump initiative but is racist now is that H.R. 1 is different. That’s their voting-rights mega-bill, their top legislative priority, which they believe will all but guarantee a permanent Democratic majority if it passes. And the only way it can pass is if Joe Manchin crumbles on the filibuster. The “racism” talking point is designed to link obstruction of H.R. 1 to obstruction of civil-rights bills during segregation, believing that any Democrat at risk of wearing the scarlet “R” will decide to capitulate in the end instead.
An important asymmetry between the two parties on the filibuster which others have noted but which Sasse does not is the fact that the Democratic legislative agenda is much more ambitious than the GOP’s. The sort of thing McConnell has in mind if Republicans get to pass bills with 50 votes is reciprocal concealed-carry. The sort of thing Schumer has in mind is a massive overhaul of U.S. elections — and a far-reaching immigration amnesty, and potentially Medicare for All and the Green New Deal and college debt forgiveness, and on and on.