Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is fast becoming the last line of defense for conservatives in America. He leads a party that has lost 13 Senate seats over the last two elections. He may need the filibuster to prevent a wave of liberal public policies and presidential appointees.
The filibuster, of course, is when one senator, debating a piece of legislation or nomination, refuses to give up the right to speak. It can be overcome only if at least 60 senators vote to cut off debate. Republicans are no strangers to the filibuster; McConnell led a decade-long filibuster battle against the McCain-Feingold bill. The filibuster may be the only tool available to restore the right of individual members to debate and offer amendments.
Some Republicans flirted with the idea of removing the filibuster in 2005 when Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi discussed a parliamentary maneuver to have a majority of senators vote to suspend the filibuster for judicial nominees. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist threatened to use this tactic to force through President Bush’s judicial nominees. But cooler heads prevailed, and the filibuster was saved.
Conservatives managed some victories last year by using filibusters to thwart several liberal priorities, including legislation on immigration, global warming and a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq.
Filling the Tree
A test of McConnell’s leadership in the next Congress will be a fight to preserve the rights of the minority party to offer amendments and debate. Over the past two years, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has effectively blocked legislative amendments by engaging in a procedural tactic known as “Filling the Tree.” Reid, as majority leader, is entitled to priority recognition in the Senate, which he has used to block amendments a record number of times. This practice stifles debate in the “world’s most deliberative body” and blocks conservatives such as Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), David Vitter (R-La.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) from offering amendments. Both parties need to respect the traditions of the Senate, which ensure free, fair and open debate and protect the minority, be it liberal or conservative.
On Nov. 21, McConnell and 41 Republican colleagues wrote to Reid demanding “that the Senate returns to the regular practice and tradition of allowing all Senators their fundamental right to debate and amend legislation.” Conservatives are hoping that President-elect Obama governs on some issues as a centrist, but when lurches to the left on an issue, then conservatives expect McConnell to put up a fight.
A Capitol Crime
The new Capitol Visitor Center, which opened Dec. 2, is a 580,000-square-foot cavern dug at the foot of the U.S. Capitol. Cost: $621 million. That’s a lot to pay for “an enhanced educational experience” for visitors that’s really a politically correct exhibit that distorts our nation’s history.
The misrepresentations are many — most notably, the theme of the main Exhibition Hall which originally touted our national motto as “E Pluribus Unum — Out of Many, One.” That mistake has been plastered over, and our actual motto, “In God We Trust,” has been tacked up (one of the few references to faith). Exhibits highlight such national progress as the direct election of senators, the New Deal and Medicare — and linger over our national sins: slavery, treatment of the Indians, big business and Vietnam.
The Constitution, according to the new Center, isn’t a list of powers but “aspirations” that Congress is expected to define and realize. This is Congress’ temple to liberals’ interpretation of the Constitution. There are no fixed meanings or limits to government, only open-ended “aspirations.” The education experience concludes by quoting Sen. Robert La Follette, the great progressive reformer from Wisconsin: “America is not made. It’s in the making.” It means nothing — or can mean anything — and visitors to the Capitol will see only a narrow, inaccurate version of our nation’s history.
Congress may be in session next week to vote on a $34 billion dollar bailout of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. They have come to Washington touting restructuring plans that they submitted to Washington last week. But conservatives want to know: Why, if these plans are so good, do they need $34 billion?