Upon officially entering the Republican primary to face Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) in next year’s U.S. Senate race, Peter Schiff vowed to “filibuster until I die” if that’s what it takes to convince members of Congress how horrible are their economic policies. However, if Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) gets his way, theoretically Schiff could find himself in a silenced minority of 49 out of 100.
As trial balloons go, Harkin’s idea to eliminate the filibuster is getting more discussion than most. First there was an interview and weekend op-ed via Ezra Klein in The Washington Post. Today, Jay Cost at RealClearPolitics provides a detailed critique (including a graph!) defending the moderating device. While Klein bemoans the “paralysis” caused when the majority party refuses to negotiate, Cost correctly points out the Framers didn’t intend to make governing easy, only possible.
Beyond original intent, though, Klein would do well to remember that not everybody saw light at the dawn of the Age of Obama. In fact, people like Schiff are so angry at the leftward lurch of the federal government that they are willing to stand up in a town hall meeting or the well of the United States Senate and tell their peers why it’s wrong.
Truth be told, the funny thing about filibusters is that they are so rarely forced. In reality, it’s not the use of filibusters that upsets Klein and Harkin, it’s the threat of using them. Announce you’ll filibuster and the governing elites seethe, condemn, and then capitulate. Had then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) called the Democrats’ bluff to filibuster George W. Bush’s judicial nominees there is little doubt a true round-the-clock filibuster would have run its course within a week; all the while Democratic surrogates would be getting killed on television trying to explain why imminently qualified attorneys shouldn’t be allowed the courtesy of an up-or-down vote.
At bottom, what Klein and Harkin hate isn’t filibusters – it’s any indication that a Democratic majority in Congress doesn’t necessarily reflect America’s majority opinion. With the Tea Party movement gaining steam with the likes of Peter Schiff and Rand Paul, one hopes the filibuster can survive until they arrive in the U.S. Senate. If they bring a majority, maybe Klein and Harkin will rethink their support of the filibuster.