The Unavoidable Question Looming Over America

Published on August 8, 2017   |  Trent Franks

Obamacare is the public policy equivalent of the Hindenburg, and the U.S. Senate has now failed to pass even the feeblest effort to repeal it.

President Donald Trump is exactly right. It is time for America to abolish the 60-vote Senate rule that forced the health care bill into the once-a-budget-year “reconciliation process” controlled by the “Byrd” rule which does not allow room for broad, lateral negotiation and subject matter inclusion that are so critical to achieving 50%+1 in a parliamentary setting.  Did you know that Obamacare could never have been repealed and replaced within the confines of the present Byrd rule? Did anyone but Senators?

Mr. Trump is extremely astute to recognize the ‘senseless 60,’ Senate rule to be the primary culprit responsible for turning the U.S. Senate into the fundamentally dysfunctional institution it has become.

Perhaps the President was paying attention in the last election cycle when then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said (when he was assuming Hillary Clinton would become President and Senator Schumer would become Majority Leader): “The country can’t be run this way, where nothing gets done.” … “Unless after this election there is a dramatic change to go back to the way it used to be” (before the “no-debate stealth filibuster”) “the Senate will have to evolve as it has in the past” … “But it will evolve with a majority vote determining stuff. It is going to happen” (emphasis mine), meaning that the majority, not 60 votes, would rule.

After such unequivocal statements, to predicate America’s future on the hope that Democrats will suddenly be seized with an epiphany of fair play toward Republicans and not follow through with Mr. Reid’s plan when given the chance, is to risk the survival of this Republic on a hope that has never manifest in the past.

Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 22, warned posterity that a supermajority construct in parliamentary settings, except in the rarest of circumstances (i.e. amending the Constitution), would mean that “smaller numbers will overrule the greater…and destroy the energy of government”.

The “energy of government” has now indeed been devastated by the modern rules in the U.S. Senate where the once rare practice of requiring the 60-vote rule on the motion-to-proceed to consider (allowing a bill to be brought to the Senate floor for debate and amendment), has become the norm.  Its usage is up 3,600%. (Link to McClintock article)

This rule has become especially fatal to an accountable appropriations process (with profound implications for the Article One Constitutional Power of the Purse). It robs those who would reign in government spending of a fair playing field and the continued chaos, lack of clarity and relentless deficits will inexorably march America into bankruptcy.

It seems now to have truly now dawned on the President (as it should the rest of us) that the present application of Senate rules will fundamentally decimate his entire legislative agenda and ultimately turn government back over to the Democrats who will then not hesitate to dispatch the Senate legislative filibuster. Perhaps the President is committed to giving America at least a glimpse of Republican policy before that happens.

Ironically, if we are paying attention at all, the principled debate on this issue is really over. The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court proved the present Senate rules are now unsustainable in this ultra-polarized environment.

All of the Republican Senators who said they would never change the filibuster for nominees should honestly admit to themselves and explain to all of us why every last one of them voted to do exactly that. The honest answer is really quite obvious. Republican Senators knew what would happen if they told the American people that their elitist Senate rules simply did not allow Neil Gorsuch, perhaps the most qualified Supreme Court nominee in the last century, to even receive an up or down vote; even after voters had elected Donald Trump to save the Court and the Constitution more than any other single reason. Republican Senators knew that the anti-deliberation filibuster, or what Heather Higgins has called the “Senatorial Full Employment Through Avoiding Tough Votes Maneuver” would then finally be exposed to the world for what it is.

America is $20 trillion in debt and approaching a sovereign debt crisis. We seem helpless to step back from the brink of socialized medicine. The federal bureaucracy is out of control. The very foundations of the nation continue to be stained by the blood of over a million of its own preborn children every year. The leading sponsor of terrorism in the world is on track to legally gain nuclear weapons. Our military and the nation’s place in the world in general have been devastated by the Obama years.

Is preserving a tyranny, that when voting on a bill, the minority in the Senate is empowered to obstruct the combined will of a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate, the President of the United States and a national election, more important than our desperate need and ability as a nation to address these critical issues when now may be the only chance we ever have? Really??

Senator McConnell…Please…for the sake of this and future American generations….. Tear down this wall!…

Congressman Trent Franks represents the 8th District of Arizona and is Past Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution.


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