Democrats distance themselves from previous pro-filibuster stance, citing GOP obstruction

Democrats distance themselves from previous pro-filibuster stance, citing GOP obstruction

More than half of current Senate Democrats and VP Harris signed 2017 letter supporting filibuster when GOP was in control

As progressives push hard for Democrats to eliminate the legislative filibuster after gaining control of the Senate, House and the presidency, many Democratic senators are distancing themselves from a letter they signed in 2017 backing the procedure.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Chris Coons, D-Del., led a letter in 2017 that asked Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to preserve the legislative filibuster. As it’s existed for decades, the filibuster requires 60 votes in order to end debate on a bill and proceed to a final vote.

“We are writing to urge you to support our efforts to preserve existing rules, practices, and traditions” on the filibuster, the letter said.

Besides Collins and Coons, 59 other senators joined on the letter. Of that group, 27 Democratic signatories still hold federal elected office. Twenty-six still hold their Senate seats, and Vice President Harris assumed her new job on Jan. 20, vacating her former California Senate seat.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., speaks as the Senate Judiciary Committee hears from legal experts on the final day of the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Coons has softened his support for the legislative filibuster in recent years after leading an effort to protect it in 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., speaks as the Senate Judiciary Committee hears from legal experts on the final day of the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Coons has softened his support for the legislative filibuster in recent years after leading an effort to protect it in 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

But now, the momentum among Senate Democrats is for either full abolition of the filibuster or significantly weakening it. President Biden endorsed the latter idea Tuesday, announcing his support for a “talking filibuster.”

KAMALA HARRIS SUPPORTS CHANGE TO FILIBUSTER IN SENATE TO LIMIT MINORITY PARTY POWER

“I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” Biden told ABC. “You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking.”

The legislative filibuster has been a 60-vote threshold for what is called a “cloture vote” — or a vote to end debate on a bill — meaning that any 41 senators could prevent a bill from getting to a final vote. If there are not 60 votes, the bill cannot proceed.

The “talking filibuster” — as it was most recently seriously articulated by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., in 2012 — would allow 41 senators to prevent a final vote by talking incessantly, around-the-clock, on the Senate floor. But once those senators stop talking, the threshold for a cloture vote is lowered to 51.

Harris’ office confirmed to Fox News Wednesday that she is now aligned with Biden on the filibuster issue. She’d previously taken an even more hostile position to the filibuster, saying she would fully “get rid” of it “to pass a Green New Deal” at a CNN town hall in 2019.

The legislative filibuster has been a 60-vote threshold for what is called a “cloture vote” — or a vote to end debate on a bill — meaning that any 41 senators could prevent a bill from getting to a final vote. If there are not 60 votes, the bill cannot proceed.

The “talking filibuster” — as it was most recently seriously articulated by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., in 2012 — would allow 41 senators to prevent a final vote by talking incessantly, around-the-clock, on the Senate floor. But once those senators stop talking, the threshold for a cloture vote is lowered to 51.

Harris’ office confirmed to Fox News Wednesday that she is now aligned with Biden on the filibuster issue. She’d previously taken an even more hostile position to the filibuster, saying she would fully “get rid” of it “to pass a Green New Deal” at a CNN town hall in 2019.

Coons, who led the 2017 letter along with Collins, has also distanced himself from his previous stance.

Vice President Kamala Harris attends a ceremonial swearing-in for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., as President Pro Tempore of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. Harris has changed her stance on the legislative filibuster since signing a letter in 2017 backing it. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP)

Vice President Kamala Harris attends a ceremonial swearing-in for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., as President Pro Tempore of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. Harris has changed her stance on the legislative filibuster since signing a letter in 2017 backing it. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP) (AP)

BIDEN SUPPORTS CHANGING SENATE FILIBUSTER 

“I’m going to try my hardest, first, to work across the aisle,” he said in September when asked about ending the filibuster. “Then, if, tragically, Republicans don’t change the tune or their behavior at all, I would.”

Fox News reached out to all of the other 26 Democratic signatories of the 2017 letter, and they all either distanced themselves from that position or did not respond to Fox News’ inquiry.

“Less than four years ago, when Donald Trump was President and Mitch McConnell was the Majority Leader, 61 Senators, including more than 25 Democrats, signed their names in opposition to any efforts that would curtail the filibuster,” a GOP aide told Fox News. “Other than the occupant of the White House, and the balance of power in the Senate, what’s changed?”

“I’m interested in getting results for the American people, and I hope we will find common ground to advance key priorities,” Sen. Tim Kaine. D-Va., said in a statement. “If Republicans try to use arcane rules to block us from getting results for the American people, then we’ll have a conversation at that time.”

Added Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va: “I am still hopeful that the Senate can work together in a bipartisan way to address the enormous challenges facing the country. But when it comes to fundamental issues like protecting Americans from draconian efforts attacking their constitutional right to vote, it would be a mistake to take any option off the table.”

“Senator Stabenow understands the urgency of passing important legislation, including voting rights, and thinks it warrants a discussion about the filibuster if Republicans refuse to work across the aisle,” Robyn Bryan, a spokesperson for Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said.

FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo, Sen.Bob Casey, D-Pa., speaks to reporters in the studio of KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. Casey has reversed his stance on the legislative filibuster since signing a 2017 letter in support of it. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo, Sen.Bob Casey, D-Pa., speaks to reporters in the studio of KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. Casey has reversed his stance on the legislative filibuster since signing a 2017 letter in support of it. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Representatives for Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., pointed to recent comments he made on MSNBC.

“Yes, absolutely,” Casey said when asked if he would support a “talking filibuster” or something similar. “Major changes to the filibuster for someone like me would not have been on the agenda even a few years ago. But the Senate does not work like it used to.”

MCCONNELL SAYS SENATE WILL BE ‘100-CAR PILEUP’ IF DEMS NUKE FILIBUSTER

“I hope any Democratic senator who’s not currently in support of changing the rules or altering them substantially, I hope they would change their minds,” Casey added.

Representatives for Sen. Angus King, I-Vt., who caucuses with Democrats, meanwhile, references a Bangor Daily News editorial that said King was completely against the filibuster in 2012 but now believes it’s helpful in stopping bad legislation. It said, however, that King is open to “modifications” similar to a talking filibuster.

The senators who did not respond to questions on their 2017 support of the filibuster were Sens. Joe Manchin. D-W.Va.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Maize Hirono, D-Hawaii; John Tester, D-Mont.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Jack Reed, D-R-I.; Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; and Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

Some of these senators, however, have addressed the filibuster in other recent comments.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Wednesday was asked if she supported changing the filibuster threshold by CNN and said she is still opposed to the idea. “Not at this time,” Feinstein said.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Hirono has changed her opinion on the legislative filibuster since signing a 2017 letter supporting it. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Hirono has changed her opinion on the legislative filibuster since signing a 2017 letter supporting it. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Sen. Maize Hirono, D-Hawaii, meanwhile said last week she is already for getting rid of the current 60-vote threshold and thinks other Democrats will sign on soon.

“If Mitch McConnell continues to be totally an obstructionist, and he wants to use the 60 votes to stymie everything that President Biden wants to do and that we Democrats want to do that will actually help people,” Hirono said, “then I think the recognition will be among the Democrats that we’re gonna need to.”

The most recent talk about either removing or significantly weakening the filibuster was spurred by comments from Manchin that appeared to indicate he would be open to a talking filibuster. He said filibustering a bill should be more “painful” for a minority.

Manchin appeared to walk back any talk of a talking filibuster on Wednesday, however.

“You know where my position is,” he said. “There’s no little bit of this and a little bit — there’s no little bit here. You either protect the Senate, you protect the institution and you protect democracy or you don’t.”

Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., both committed to supporting the current form of the filibuster earlier this year. Sinema was not in the Senate in 2017.

Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said their comments gave him the reassurance he needed to drop a demand that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., put filibuster protections into the Senate’s organizing resolution.

But with Manchin seeming to flake at least in the eyes of some, other Democrats are beginning to push harder for filibuster changes.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Durbin was not among those who signed a 2017 letter supporting the legislative filibuster. This week he gave a Senate floor speech supporting a version of a talking filibuster, which would weaken the precedent in its current form. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Durbin was not among those who signed a 2017 letter supporting the legislative filibuster. This week he gave a Senate floor speech supporting a version of a talking filibuster, which would weaken the precedent in its current form. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

“Today, nearly 65 years after Strom Thurmond’s marathon defense of Jim Crow, the filibuster is still making a mockery of American democracy. The filibuster is still being misused by some Senators to block legislation urgently needed and supported by strong majorities of the American people,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Monday.

He added: “I have been long open to changing the Senate’s rules to restore the ‘standing filibuster.’ If a Senator insists on blocking the will of the Senate, he [or she] should have to pay some minimal price of being present. No more phoning it in.”

Republicans, meanwhile, are warning that Democrats will regret it if they kneecap the filibuster.

“The legislative filibuster defines the Senate as the world’s greatest deliberative body.  It would be tragic if it were removed,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said recently. “And I believe the Democrats would rue the day eventually should they pursue that route.”

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McConnell, meanwhile, was more explicit in his threats.

“So let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues. Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “I want our colleagues to imagine a world where every single task, every one of them, requires a physical quorum.”

Nevertheless, Schumer has refused to take getting rid of the filibuster off the table as Democrats aim to pass more major progressive bills with their razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate.

“Failure is not an option, everything is on the table,” Schumer told reporters Wednesday.

Fox News’ Jason Donner and Sally Persons contributed to this report

January 26, 2021 10:36AM

Government Spending Could Top $9 Trillion

President Biden’s push to spend another $1.9 trillion on economic relief is surreal given that government budgets are vastly ballooned already. Total federal, state, and local government spending soared from $6.8 trillion in 2019 to $8.8 trillion in 2020. That is $68,000 in government spending for every household in the nation.

We have already imposed $6 trillion in new debt on future taxpayers in just two years. More spending would be reckless and extremely unfair as young people will have their own costs and crises to deal with down the road. Vaccinate people, repeal shutdown mandates, and the economy will recover by itself. That’s what market economies do. The government has already spent far too much.

The chart shows federal, state, and local government spending, with estimates for 2020 and 2021. It includes the almost $900 billion in relief spending passed in December, but does not include Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion in new aid. If Biden’s plan passes, spending will easily top $9 trillion in 2021. Data are for federal fiscal years.

c

The patterns of spending and revenues in the current downturn differ from the Great Recession a decade ago. Back then, state‐​local government revenues dipped and federal revenues plunged. In the current downturn, overall government revenues are fairly stable.

During the Great Recession, total government spending rose about $1 trillion, and then flatlined for a few years before rising again. This time, spending jumped about $2 trillion.

Even without a Biden stimulus bill, spending will be about $8.2 trillion in 2021, up $1.4 trillion from 2019. Even if one believes that deficit spending helps the economy, there will already be about $2.6 trillion of it in 2021 without a Biden bill.

Data Notes

The data for 2005 to 2019 are from Table 14.1 and 14.2 here. Federal spending and revenues for 2020 are here. For 2021 federal spending, I assumed CBO’s baseline plus $875 billion from the December aid bill. For federal revenues, I assumed 2021 will be the same as 2020. State and local spending and revenues for 2020 are calculated from BEA quarterly data in Table 3.3 here, and 2021 is assumed to be the same.

Barack Obama new book "A Promised Land"

Republican presidents besides Reagan have done a bad job of slowing the growth of spending.

President Obama wrote in his autobiography on page 415 in A PROMISED LAND:

There was a reason I told Valerie, why Republicans tended to do the opposite—why Ronald Reagan could preside over huge increases in the federal budget, and federal workforce and still be lionized by the GOP faithful as the guy who successfully shrank the federal government.

Take a look at Daniel Mitchell analysis of Presidents’ spending restraints!!!


Spending Restraint, Part I: Lessons from Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton

Uploaded by on Feb 14, 2011

Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both reduced the relative burden of government, largely because they were able to restrain the growth of domestic spending. The mini-documentary from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity uses data from the Historical Tables of the Budget to show how Reagan and Clinton succeeded and compares their record to the fiscal profligacy of the Bush-Obama years.

___________________

Ronald Reagan was my hero and he did slow the growth of federal spending. In this post I did want to admit that Republicans have spent way too much in the past too, but we do have some spending cut heroes too. I have a lot of respect for Tea Party heroes like Tim Huelskamp and Justin Amash who are willing to propose deep spending cuts so we can eventually balance our budget.

Look at how things have been going the last four years and no matter how anyone tries to spin it, we are going down the financial drain fast. We got to balance the budget as soon as possible. Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute showed in an article that I posted earlier about how much spending has exploded the last four years.

John Brummett wrote in the online addition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on May 30, 2012:

Obama did indeed run up the deficit with a stimulus measure to keep the economy from collapsing as he entered office…But in regard to budgets that he actually has proposed as president, beginning with the one for the fiscal year starting nearly a year after his election, Obama has raised spending at a slower rate than Clinton…

Republicans simply are more effective than Democrats at declaring a simple untruth loudly and repetitively through a pliable and powerful echo chamber of talk radio and cable news, thus embedding that untruth beneath the superficial consciousness of people otherwise disengaged.

__________

Now the truth of the matter is that Obama has spent around 25% of GDP when Clinton and most of the other presidents spent 20% or less. This fact allow disproves Brummett’s assertions listed above, but I will admit the Republicans have been guilty of spending too much also.

Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute sets the record straight concerning the Republican’s spending which has been excessive too at times:

In a post last week, I explained that Obama has been a big spender, but noted his profligacy is disguised because TARP outlays caused a spike in spending during Bush’s last fiscal year (FY2009, which began October 1, 2008). Meanwhile, repayments from banks in subsequent years count as “negative spending,” further hiding the underlying trend in outlays.

When you strip away those one-time factors, it turns out that Obama has allowed domestic spending to increase at the fastest rate since Richard Nixon.

I then did another post yesterday, where I looked at total spending (other than interest payments and bailout costs) and showed that Obama has presided over the biggest spending increases since Lyndon Johnson.

Looking at the charts, it’s also rather obvious that party labels don’t mean much. Bill Clinton presided during a period of spending restraint, while every Republican other than Reagan has a dismal track record.

President George W. Bush, for instance, scores below both Clinton and Jimmy Carter, regardless of whether defense outlays are included in the calculations. That’s not a fiscally conservative record, even if you’re grading on a generous curve.

This leads Jonah Goldberg to offer some sage advice to the GOP.

Here’s a simple suggestion for Mitt Romney: Admit that the Democrats have a point. Right before the Memorial Day weekend, Washington was consumed by a debate over how much Barack Obama has spent as president, and it looks like it’s picking up again. …all of these numbers are a sideshow: Republicans in Washington helped create the problem, and Romney should concede the point. Focused on fighting a war, Bush — never a tightwad to begin with — handed the keys to the Treasury to Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert, and they spent enough money to burn a wet mule. On Bush’s watch, education spending more than doubled, the government enacted the biggest expansion in entitlements since the Great Society (Medicare Part D), and we created a vast new government agency (the Department of Homeland Security). …Nearly every problem with spending and debt associated with the Bush years was made far worse under Obama. The man campaigned as an outsider who was going to change course before we went over a fiscal cliff. Instead, when he got behind the wheel, as it were, he hit the gas instead of the brakes — and yet has the temerity to claim that all of the forward momentum is Bush’s fault. …Romney is under no obligation to defend the Republican performance during the Bush years. Indeed, if he’s serious about fixing what’s wrong with Washington, he has an obligation not to defend it. This is an argument that the Tea Party — which famously dealt Obama’s party a shellacking in 2010 — and independents alike are entirely open to. Voters don’t want a president to rein in runaway Democratic spending; they want one to rein in runaway Washington spending.

Jonah’s point about “fixing what’s wrong with Washington” is not a throwaway line. Romney has pledged to voters that he won’t raise taxes. He also has promised to bring the burden of federal spending down to 20 percent of GDP by the end of a first term.

But even those modest commitments will be difficult to achieve if he isn’t willing to gain credibility with the American people by admitting that Republicans helped create the fiscal mess in Washington. Especially since today’s GOP leaders in the House and Senate were all in office last decade and voted for Bush’s wasteful spending.

It actually doesn’t even take much to move fiscal policy in the right direction. All that’s required is to restrain spending so that is grows more slowly than the private sector (with the kind of humility you only find in Washington, I call this “Mitchell’s Golden Rule“). The entitlement reforms in the Ryan budget would be a good start, along with some much-needed pruning of discretionary spending.

And if you address the underlying problem by limiting spending growth to about 2 percent annually, you can balance the budget in about 10 years. No need for higher taxes, notwithstanding the rhetoric of the fiscal frauds in Washington who salivate at the thought of another failed 1990s-style tax hike deal.

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