Under Construction C

The title of this article is from the Death of Mercutio in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. It seems an appropriate curse to place on the leadership and dominant actors of both parties in both chambers of Congress.

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The quote is particularly true in the Senate.

A Brief Quiz

Before we begin, I’d like you to take a brief quiz. Don’t panic. The quiz is just one task … asking you to match the 6 pictures on the right with the 6 identifying characteristics listed below.

  1. This person is the Senate Minority Leader.
  2. This person is one of two Democrats who could prevent the party from eliminating the “Senate Filibuster Rule”.
  3. This person is the other Democrat who is defending the “Senate Filibuster Rule”.
  4. This person is the Senate Majority Leader.
  5. This person is the Speaker of the House.
  6. This person is the House Minority Leader.

When you’re ready to check your answers, click here.

  • 1 = EMitch McConnell (R-KY) is the Senate Minority Leader. In the 117th Congress, the Senate is divided 50-50. Because Vice President Kamala Harris breaks all tie votes … and, it’s assumed that she will vote in favor of her own party’s position … the Democrats are considered to be the Majority Party.
  • 2 = BJoe Manchin (D-WV) has been the leading Democrat opposing the elimination of the Senate’s “Filibuster Rule”. His resistance seems to have softened a bit after May 28, 2021, when all but 6 Republican Senators voted to filibuster the bill that would have established an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the Capitol Building.
  • 3 = DKyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has expressed reluctance to go along with eliminating the “Filibuster Rule” as well. To the best of my knowledge, she has not made any official comments about the failed vote to end the filibuster.
  • 4 = AChuck Schumer (D-NY) is the Senate Majority Leader. He was Minority Leader in the preceding Congress and became Majority Leader when Georgia elected two Democrats, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, to be their Senators.
  • 5 = FNancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the first and, so far, the only woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. She began serving her fourth term as Speaker of the House on January 3, 2021.
  • 6 = CKevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the Leader of the Republican Minority in the House of Representatives.

How did you do? This little game was a way to familiarize my readers with some of the “major players”. Even though I listen to/watch the news 8 to 10 hours a day, I had to double-check the names and states of a couple of them.

The Immediate Problem

As is usually the case, the current problem is in the Senate. Important bills are being passed in the House of Representatives, then dying in the Senate. Chuck Schumer can introduce the a Senate equivalent of the House Bill for debate, but the Senate Cloture Rule requires 60 votes to end debate. This is what is commonly referred to as the “Filibuster Rule” because failure to obtain the required 60 votes has the same effect as a filibuster without a lot of talking.

With 50 members in the Democratic caucus (48 Democrats and 2 Independents), Majority Leader Schumer needs 10 Republicans to reach 60 votes in favor of ending debate. Only 51 votes … the Democratic Party and the Vice President … would be needed are required to pass the vote. In the Senate (and, for some, elsewhere), it’s harder to stop talking than to do any useful work.

Getting 10 votes from the Republican caucus is unlikely since Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made this statement:

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If this sounds familiar, it’s because he made a similar statement over a dozen years ago:

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If nothing else, Senator McConnell certainly is consistent. Whether he’s leading the majority or the minority, nnn-bipartisan obstruction is his goal … and most Senate Republicans follow his lead.

On May 28th, Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the Capitol building … the same attack that threatened the life of Vice President Pence and members of both chambers of Congress regardless of party.[1]

Six Republican Senators were more concerned with getting answers than party loyalty.

Six Republican Senators who did not play “Follow the Leader” with Mitch McConnell

From left to right, Republican Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, and and Ben Sasse of Nebraska voted to move forward. They should be commended for their reason and courage.

Meanwhile, what are Congressional Democrats doing? In theory, they have a majority in both chambers. The House of Representatives has 220 Democrats and 211 Republicans. There is no filibuster rule in the House. If most of the Democrats vote together, they win. So far, that has been the case. The Senate has 48 Democrats, 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats, and 50 Republicans. Since, in her Constitutionally-defined role as President of the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris gets a vote whenever the Yeas and Nays are tied. Provided they stick together. the Democrats, Independents, and the Vice President win every vote … provided a bill is allowed to come to a vote. While only 51 votes are needed for a bill to pass, the “Filibuster Rule” says that 60 votes are required to call for a vote.

Why so many Bills Die in the Senate

Before we continue, let’s take a closer look at the filibuster.

Footnotes

[1]
One wonders who or what motivated the majority of the Senate Republicans. Were they “just following orders” from Minority Leader McConnell? Are they afraid that ex-President Trump will turn their constituents against them? Are some of them afraid they will be exposed as collaborators in the attack?

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