The Daily Escape:
Florida Beach – photo by Wrongo. Most years, we’re in FL looking at the ocean this week. That’s another thing cancelled by Covid.
The House passed HR 1, the “For the People Act,” an omnibus voting rights, and ethics and campaign finance bill. If passed by the Senate and signed by Biden, the legislation would set national standards for federal elections, require nonpartisan redistricting, and put the brakes on hundreds of bills introduced by Republican legislatures across the country to limit ballot access in the wake of Democrats gaining control of Congress and the White House.
Jonathan Last says that Senate Democrats now must make three calculations as they decide whether to take up the legislation:
- Do they have the votes to pass it?
- Do they have the votes to break the filibuster?
- If the answers to (1) and (2) are yes, should they move forward?
Let’s assume for the sake of this discussion that the answers to (1) and (2) are yes. Then, of course they should move forward! Last observes that:
- We have one party with a small—but clear, and durable—majority.
- We have another party that has given up on trying to create a majority and instead has retreated into attempts to use systemic leverage—of both geography and anti-democratic gerrymandering — to preserve power for their minority.
Last says the only counter to the Republican’s efforts to game the system is to use the system to create more democracy — to lessen the points of leverage available to Republicans.
So, the Senate must pass HR 1. That expands voting. It moves the leverage away from politics and for the first time in America, towards the people. Last brings up a NY Magazine interview with David Shor, where he says:
“Since the maps in the House of Representatives are so biased against us, if we don’t pass a redistricting reform, our chance of keeping the House is very low. And then the Senate is even more biased against us than the House. So, it’s also very important that we add as many states as we can.”
So, if Democrats can kill the filibuster and pass HR 1, a next step is to bring up statehood for DC and Puerto Rico. Republicans will howl, but as Last says, if the Dems have learned anything in the last four years it’s that there are only two relevant questions when Congress acts:
- Are you explicitly forbidden from doing something by the black letter of the law?
- Do you have the votes to do it?
If the answer is No to the first and Yes to the second, then you can do it. That is exactly what Republicans did every time in the Trump era. Remember Merrick Garland, and Amy Coney Barrett? Remember that members of the Trump administration refused to testify in front of House committees?
Remember too that the Constitution allows Congress to add states by simple majority vote. If Democrats have the votes, then they can also do that. Republicans aren’t the only Party who can use the political leverage available in our system.
The difference would be that Republicans have used that leverage to empower electoral minorities, while the Democrats in this case, could use that leverage to empower electoral majorities.
Vote suppression is the Republican’s default position. They have become truly authoritarian, despite continuing to give lip service to the Constitution and to democratic principles. January 6 taught us that the only election reform Republicans will unanimously accept is one that declares its candidates the winners regardless of the election’s results.
To do any of this, the Senate Democrats need to be united, and that is the most important test for new Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) laid out the case for getting rid of the filibuster:
“We have a raw exercise of political power going on where people are making it harder to vote and you just can’t let that happen in a democracy because of some old rules in the Senate…”
Schumer’s task is to corral Democrats Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Surely, they see the Republican Party’s antidemocratic bad faith. The Republican Party is no longer republican.
As Wrongo has said before, Jan. 6 should have shattered any illusions about the intentions, not just of Trump and his dead enders, but about the Republican Party’s allegiance to our Constitutional republic.
Democrats must act accordingly. And as soon as possible.
The course of action available to them won’t be an option in 2022 after the GOP passes all the voter suppression legislation that they now have pending.