ABUSE OF THE RULES ISN’T SOMETHING TO “GET USED TO”…. David Broder writes today that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is entirely content with the way the Senate functions. The chamber is “operating very much as the Founders intended,” McConnell insisted.
And what of the growing sense, even among senators, that the institution has been damaged, at times even paralyzed, by unprecedented obstructionism? McConnell added that newer members just aren’t accustomed yet to their surroundings. Broder reported, “The Senate, [McConnell] said, ‘takes a bit of getting used to.’ But if they stick it out, these newcomers will learn to love the old rules, he said, and abandon their foolish impulse to change them.”
You’ve no doubt seen this chart, put together by congressional scholar Norm Ornstein, before, but it’s worth reviewing again. It notes the growth of filibusters as a rare, and usually inconsequential, tactic used by Senate minorities, to the abuse we see today. After Democrats won back Congress in 2006, Republicans broke a record unseen in American history, and though it’s not reflected on this chart, in the current Congress, for the first time, the Senate demands supermajorities on nearly every bill.
Mitch McConnell believes the chamber is “operating very much as the Founders intended”? Whether he’s lying or ignorant is open to debate, but either way, the argument is demonstrably ridiculous. As Jon Chait noted the other day, “The filibuster is not part of the design. It developed by accident — the Constitution calls for supermajorities in a few limited instances: ratifying treaties and constitutional amendments, overriding presidential vetoes, expelling members and for impeachments.”
Mandating supermajorities to pass legislation — all legislation — is a twisted take that undermines the government’s ability to function.
McConnell thinks senator should just “get used to” the way the Senate does business. But that’s crazy — the Senate never operated this way, it wasn’t designed to operate this way, and as we’ve seen repeatedly of late, it can’t operate this way.
McConnell made this case in a room of political reporters. Any of them foolish enough to accept his nonsense at face value have fallen for a weak con.