Dispensing with the Filibuster

Original Article

The Senate Republicans had the good sense to vote through the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court justice with a simple majority, instead of a 60-vote majority required to overcome a filibuster. Now it’s time for Republicans to abandon the filibuster protocol altogether and adopt a simple majority to advance and pass legislation. They need to do this not because President Trump has encouraged it, but rather because the Democratic Party is now an obstructionist party — a lawless extra-constitutional party that is committed to sabotaging President Trump and his economic growth initiatives. Democrats now appear more comfortable embracing the George Soros-funded “hate America” crowd of the left than they are inclined to find any common ground with Republicans. And there is little or no prospect of that changing any time soon.

The Democratic Party is also joined at the hip with the mainstream media and its 24/7 obsession with drama over substance to denigrate President Trump and paralyze his administration. And so far, it appears to be working. Exhibit A is the slow pace of legislation, and Exhibit B is the slow confirmation of nominees in the Senate — impairing effective government due to unprecedented high levels of vacancies of key deputy and assistant level appointments at this stage of a new administration.

Republicans simply have to get their act together if they are serious about retaining control of Congress. The American people voted for change in 2016, and the only way voters can judge whether or not the country is moving in the right direction is by passing legislation that implements the public policies on which Donald Trump and the Republicans campaigned. And with the U.S. federal debt clock about to hit the $20 trillion milestone, there is no time to lose.

The world’s biggest debtor is the U.S. government, which borrowed to finance deficits averaging $913 billion annually during the Obama years. To put that in perspective, during all the years prior to Obama, the highest single year U.S. deficit was $459 billion, about half of the annual average deficit during the eight years of Obama rule. And in those eight years of Obama, the amount of new debt created by Uncle Sam’s Treasury almost equaled all the debt created by the prior 43 administrations over 226 years combined.

Although Washington may be in denial, this trajectory is unsustainable, with compounding of debt service costs resulting in a Ponzi-like collapse. And barring reductions in entitlement spending, which has consistently proven to be the third rail of politics, the only solution to avoid the national catastrophe of insolvency and economic collapse is to ramp up economic growth and the tax revenues that follow.

There is always a lag factor when new policies are implemented. So even if sweeping tax reduction and simplification are passed in the first year of the Trump administration along with regulatory relief measures, there will be delay in the resulting economic boom and increased tax receipts, which suggests high deficits will continue through much of fiscal year 2018. Fiscal year 2019 begins two months before the next election, and positive trends on tax receipts and shrinking deficits by that time is likely to be a key causal factor in retaining Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell recently said, “There wasn’t a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster… not one.” Such a statement brings into full relief just how out of touch Republicans in Washington really are.

Real leadership is doing what is necessary to save the country from the abyss of financial collapse. The most important priority now is delivering on economic growth by assuring timely passage of major tax and regulatory reduction and simplification legislation.

If patriotism is an insufficient motivator for Senator McConnell to lead his colleagues to dispense with the filibuster protocol in order to assure key economic growth legislation gets passed expediently, he needs to be reminded that either financial collapse or the loss of an historic Congressional majority in 2018 will be the legacy for which he’ll be forever remembered.

Scott S. Powell

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Scott Powell has enjoyed a career split between theory and practice with over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and rainmaker in several industries. He joins the Discovery Institute after having been a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for six years and serving as a managing partner at a consulting firm, RemingtonRand. His research and writing has resulted in over 250 published articles on economics, business and regulation. Scott Powell graduated from the University of Chicago with honors (B.A. and M.A.) and received his Ph.D. in political and economic theory from Boston University in 1987, writing his dissertation on the determinants of entrepreneurial activity and economic growth.