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GOP gallery of nightmares: 10 policies
Biden and Democrats would ram through
after axing filibuster
Washington Examiner, by W.James Antle III
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden put Republicans on notice this week: If you use the filibuster to stymie his agenda, you’ll lose it.“It's going to depend on how obstreperous they become,” Biden said of eliminating the 60-vote threshold to end debate. The former vice president previously resisted getting rid of the filibuster but now says, “you’re just going to have to take a look at it.” If Biden wins and Democrats capture the Senate, this would enable them to pass legislation with a simple majority, leaving Republicans powerless to stop them. Here are 10 liberal policies that Biden and the Democrats could enact without the filibuster that would be difficult to get through if it remained in effect:
1. Gun control: After largely abandoning the issue following election losses in the 1990s, a series of high-profile mass shootings have increased Democratic support for passing what they now describe as “commonsense gun safety legislation.” The details of the exact proposals have varied, but universal background checks and reinstating the so-called assault weapons ban, originally passed as part of Biden’s 1994 crime bill, would seem to be priorities if Democrats win in November. The Biden “plan to end our gun violence epidemic” would make gun manufacturers liable for crimes committed using their products and ban high-capacity magazines. Republicans, and a few Democrats from states with a high number of legal gun owners, would resist such efforts. Junking the filibuster would take away a tool for doing so.
2. Amnesty for illegal immigrants: There was filibuster-proof support for comprehensive immigration reform that would have legalized a large majority of the unauthorized immigrants currently residing in the United States under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, but Republican opposition stiffened after the collapse of the Gang of Eight in 2013 and the election of Donald Trump in 2016. The DREAM Act, a legislative precursor to Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, was stopped by a filibuster in 2012.
Biden has proposed a “roadmap to citizenship for the nearly 11 million people who have been living in and strengthening our country for years,” a reference to undocumented immigrants. “These are our mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters,” says Biden’s campaign website. “They are our neighbors, co-workers, and members of our congregations and Little League teams.” Such a plan might pass simply in response to a Trump defeat. It would definitely get through the Senate without a filibuster.
3. Taxpayer funding of abortion: Facing liberal pressure, Biden has abandoned his support for the Hyde Amendment, which bans most federal funding of abortion. Democrats frequently campaign on Hyde Amendment repeal but have not made a serious attempt to do so since 1993 because the Senate votes have not been there even when they have been in the majority. But with fewer anti-abortion Democrats in Congress than ever before and no filibuster, it would be easier to pass such legislation and restore Medicaid-funded abortions for the first time since 1976.
4. Tax increases: While most tax and spending legislation can already avoid the filibuster’s supermajority requirement through the reconciliation process, some provisions can still be blocked by the minority. Under Obama, Senate Democrats tried to improve their prospects for repealing the Bush tax cuts with legislation separating the middle-class reductions from those for upper-income earners. Both pieces of legislation were stopped by filibuster, and most of the tax cuts were extended in 2013. Democrats are likely to try something similar with the Trump tax cuts, and without the filibuster, they could. The Buffet rule, which imposed a 30% minimum tax on the wealthy, was also blocked by filibuster. So was a Democratic resolution stating, “any agreement to reduce the budget deficit should require that those earning $1,000,000 or more per year make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort.”
5. Ending the secret ballot for unionization: Called “card check,” Democrats were unable to pass this when they held nearly 60 seats in the Senate. The policy would make it easier to unionize a workplace because it would replace most secret-ballot elections with a petition signed by a bare majority of eligible employees. It is a major priority for organized labor, as it would increase membership, but even some red-state Democrats have balked in the past. Its chances would improve without the filibuster.
6. D.C. statehood: Democrats want to make Washington, D.C., a state. This would guarantee the Democrats an additional member of the House of Representatives and two more senators in perpetuity. Unlike even Massachusetts, the district has never voted for a Republican presidential candidate. The House recently passed a Washington, D.C., statehood measure along party lines. Without the filibuster, the same could happen in the Senate. Doing this through legislation rather than a constitutional amendment is likely unconstitutional, but that brings us to the next item on the list...
7. Court-packing: Liberal activists have increasingly been clamoring for an expansion of the Supreme Court by Congress to undercut its current narrow conservative majority. A Democratic Senate would then be able to confirm new liberal nominees quickly who are already no longer subject to filibuster. Biden still opposes court-packing, but a few controversial conservative decisions, especially rulings against his administration, could force his hand. The mere threat of court-packing is widely believed to have persuaded the Supreme Court to uphold more of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
8. The public option — and maybe Medicare for All: Biden opposes expanding Medicare to cover all people and would prefer to instead create a government-run public option within Obamacare. This would also increase the federal government’s role in healthcare and make it difficult for private insurers to compete. The public option would already be part of Obamacare, but some centrist and insurance-state Democrats opposed the idea and denied it a filibuster-proof majority. Getting rid of the filibuster would make all Democratic attempts to grow the federal role in healthcare easier, as the writing of Obamacare was hampered by having to follow the reconciliation process to get around the possibility of a filibuster. If enough Democrats decided to do so, they could even decide to go all the way with Medicare for All or another government-run, single-payer plan. Would Biden really veto it? He has succumbed to liberal pressure before — such as on the filibuster.
9. Oil company crackdowns: During the Obama administration, Democrats advanced legislation to disqualify oil companies from manufacturing tax credits. It was blocked by filibuster. Further reaching legislative efforts are sure to be revived if Democrats control a filibuster office while Biden is on the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
10. The Green New Deal: Advertised as an ambitious environmental plan by supporters of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it is a grab bag of liberal policy proposals with a price tag that has been estimated at anywhere from $50 trillion to $93 trillion over 10 years. In addition to zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions, it would “create millions of good, high-paying jobs” and stop, prevent, and repair “oppression.” The only way it could ever pass is without the filibuster.