Damn the Filibuster, Full Speed Ahead

“The Republican leadership today is not against the way we have done the job. The Republican leadership is against the job’s being done.”

– President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Sept, 29, 1936

If history is any guide, it would be absurd to believe President Joe Biden can get his muscular liberal agenda through a blocking Republican Senate without first deleting the filibuster.

And he has so much to do, so much of it good.

Not one single Republican in the House or Senate voted in favor of Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed Wednesday. Not one. It’s as if Republican constituents, many of whom may be in the hardest hit industries, wouldn’t benefit from receiving $1,400 payments plus tax, child support, unemployment insurance and other help.

It’s typical. The same thing happened during most of President Barack Obama’s two terms of office, when antagonist Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky led the Senate. He’s now the minority leader and his goal is the same: stop the Democrats, who for now own both houses of Congress and the White House. For now.

Biden has big, expensive plans for the country, largely to make up for the years lost to a predecessor whose agenda was catering to himself, playing golf and perpetrating chaos. And satisfying his ideological GOP with a huge tax cut, deregulation and a couple hundred conservative judges.

With the first order of business done – fixing the pandemic damage to the American people and their economy – Biden’s next lineup includes ensuring voting rights, dealing with climate change, immigration reform, racial justice and literally rebuilding a neglected rundown country with infrastructure legislation intended to create jobs – a Roosevelt-inspired Biden “Build Back Better” deal.

The Republicans are against all of it, of course, just as they were in the 1930s when Roosevelt was trying to pull the country out of the Great Depression. World War II finally did that. Not much has changed in the Republican mindset.

They’re pretending to worry about too much public spending increasing the deficit. And they’re pushing the idea that so much printing of money will cause inflation, which most economists have dismissed as a concern, arguing deficit spending is legitimate in times of crisis.

If Biden will propose all of these progressive ideals, the Democrats will need to unite their liberal and more centrist members and definitely jettison the filibuster. With the filibuster, Republicans will ensure the president never will get the 6o votes, instead of a majority, needed to pass each of the items on his agenda.

Coming up is the multipronged, 791-page voting rights bill. The For the People Act is a huge undertaking targeting Republican attempts to suppress voter turnout through nefarious means from virtually eliminating early ballots and mail-in voting to more strict ID laws. It’s all because of trumped up lies about a “rigged” election that have no basis in fact.

Legislators in 43 states, most of them Republican, have filed at least 250 bills restricting voting, according to The Washington Post.

The voting rights bill, known as H.R. 1, is similar to House-passed legislation two years ago that never got anywhere because Republicans then held the Senate and blocked it. House Democrats were able to pass the controversial legislation after they won a majority in the lower chamber in the 2018 midterm elections.

“Not one Republican is going to vote for H.R. 1 because it’s a federal takeover of elections, it sets up a system where there is no real voter security or verification,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “It is a liberal wish list in terms of how you vote.”

He’s right about that wish list. And the Republican wish list? Restrict voting, a basic tenet of a democracy, because the Republicans can’t win elections fairly. Biden’s predecessor even said so.

“Democrats can – and must – finally end the filibuster now, with their 51-vote majority,” wrote Robert Reich in an opinion piece in the Guardian.

He was labor secretary during President Bill Clinton’s administration.

A Democratic obstacle to killing the filibuster are Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona because, he wrote, they want to “appeal to Republicans in their states.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” Reich wrote. “The stakes are too high. If Democrats fail to enact the For the People Act, Republicans will send voting rights into retreat for decades.”

The 2013 Supreme Court’s 5-4 conservative ruling gutted the Voting Rights Act.

What Biden should do, as well as to emulate Roosevelt, is to get tough in the mold of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through Congress. He should use his knowledge of the Senate to the Democrats’ advantage.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.