One of America’s most loathsome politicians, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) admits the filibuster is bullshit.
The filibuster myth is that no legislation can pass the US Senate without a 60 member vote. However, on 7 March 2021, Machin went on nationwide TV to reveal how easy it is for Senators to get around the filibuster.
“I will change my mind if we need to go to a reconciliation to where we have to get something done, once I know they have process into it,” Manchin said on NBC’s Meet the Press on 7 March 2021. Thus, Manchin admits, “yes we can easily get around the Filibuster if we want.”
Thus, the popular notion that the filibuster is an impenetrable wall is bullshit. The U.S. Senate can easily punch through the wall if its leaders want.
The Filibuster is Fake
To explain, the Senate can pass enormous amounts of legislation with only 50 or 51 votes by using a process they call reconciliation As I understand it, reconciliation is a giant bill that contains many items.
In fact, Congress has passed 21 budget reconciliation bills since 1980, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals. To elaborate, the Congressional Budget Act allows reconciliation for spending and revenue legislation.
The reason for reconciliation is to make sure the federal government has enough money to operate. For instance, to pay the military and fund programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and military pensions.
There is a nasty class aspect to reconciliation because it is available for the budget, which benefits big business and rich people. Defense contractors such asNorthrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) and their stockholders, for example.
On the other hand, legislation that can help ordinary people; such as minimum wage increases and voting rights bills, still requires 60 votes. Thus, the Senate still works for rich people and big business (who can write big donation checks) but not for the average people who elect US Senators.
The Filibuster is not what you think
The filibuster is a rule that allows any U.S. Senator to block any legislation by objecting to it. The only way to clear the logjam and move the legislation forward is a 60 member vote of the Senate.
Originally, the filibuster had to be a speech by a Senator. To initiate a filibuster a Senator had to stand in the US Senate and speak against something. This was the process glorified in Frank Capra’s absurdist fantasy Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
In the film, Jimmy Stewart’s character literally blocks the federal budget with a speech. Today, reconciliation makes such a filibuster impossible.
Instead, modern Senators can filibuster legislation by telling Senate leaders they object to it. In fact, a U.S. Senator can initiate a filibuster by emailing Senate leaders.
The Filibuster is about Power
Thus, the filibuster gives U.S. Senators enormous power. The real reason Manchin and other Senators love the filibuster is the power it gives them. Senators can use the filibuster to block legislation on behalf of donors or voters.
Manchin, for example, can filibuster legislation designed to curtail use of fossil fuels or promote electric cars. Remember, coal is one of the biggest industries in West Virginia. Many of Machin’s voters work in the coal industry, and coal companies are among Manchin’s biggest donors.
Essentially, the filibuster makes it impossible for the Senate to pass many kinds of legislation. For example, a carbon tax, Medicare for All (single payer health insurance), voting rights expansion, the minimum wage, and business regulations to name a few.
Obviously, Senators can make enormous amounts of money using the filibuster to block such legislation. Hence, they love the filibuster. This explains why the Senate and its apologists in the media love the filibuster.
The Filibuster Scam
In addition, the filibuster enables US Senators both parties to conduct a scam I call “we cannot do that.”
To explain, the Senators say we cannot pass that legislation because they “will filibuster it.” Consequently, senators do not have to deal with issues such as voting rights, abortion, healthcare, climate change, and the minimum wage. Instead of doing the people’s business, the Senators can break and head for the golf course.
However, Manchin just revealed that the filibuster was always a scam. The U.S. Senators have always had the power to get around the filibuster they’re just too lazy or wimpy to use it. Manchin admits the Senate could eliminate the filibuster anytime they want to.
Has Manchin killed the filibuster?
In essence, Machin broke kayfabe on nationwide TV. Kayfabe is probably an old carnival or entertainment industry term that means protecting the secrets of the business at all costs.
The best known example of kayfabe comes from professional wrestling. Until the 1980s, many professional wrestlers maintained the charade that everything in the ring was real. When wrestlers gathered and talked “shop” they would use the term kayfabe whenever somebody outside the business approached.
Breaking kayfabe means admitting in public; “yeah it’s fake.” I think Manchin just broke the Senate’s filibuster kayfabe. However, I cannot tell if he broke kayfabe intentionally or unintentionally.
Manchin is now promoting “filibuster reform;” what he calls, making the filibuster more painful, Vox reports. Interestingly, Manchin wants to revive the Mr. Smith style filibuster speeches. Under Manchin’s proposal, a Senator will have to go into the Senator and speak against legislation to block it.
Personally, I cannot see the Senate following Manchin’s suggestion. However, it could open the door to killing the filibuster. IE he wants to make the filibuster so hard nobody will use it.
The Real Problem with the Filibuster
By exposing the filibuster charade, Manchin reveals one of the genuine problems with the U.S. Senate.
The problem is that the Senate refuses to use the power it has. Getting around the filibuster is easy, but the Senate refuses to do so.
Instead of an intractable barrier, the filibuster is an excuse not to pass any legislation and an excuse not to work. If they kill the filibuster, U.S. Senators will have to work and try to fill their promises as their colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives and our nation’s state legislature have to.
Moreover, the filibuster is an excuse not to tackle potentially unpopular or controversial legislation. The Senate can evade issues such as Medicare, Social Security, voting rights, the minimum wage, and abortion because Senators can scream filibuster.
If there is no filibuster, Senators will have to vote on those issues and explain their actions to the voters back home. For example, Manchin will have to tell the folk back in West Virginia; one of America’s poorest states, why he voted against raising the minimum wage. Or Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who could conveniently retire soon, could have to explain to Christians why abortion restrictions never become reality.
Finally, Senators can spend their time fighting over the filibuster which they know to be bullshit, rather than tackle controversial issues. No U.S. Senator needs to take a stand that could irritate primary voters or campaign donors because he or she can argue over the filibuster.
The sorry truth is that the filibuster is bullshit. However, the filibuster is a useful piece of bullshit, so it survives. The filibuster fraud shows why Americans hate Congress.