For the second time in recent weeks, President Donald Trump urged Senate Republicans Tuesday to change long-held Senate rules to make it easier to pass his agenda through the narrowly divided chamber.
But his sharply worded tweet pushing for the elimination of the filibuster for bills may fall short because most senators oppose giving up the special Senate tool that was designed to ensure the minority party has some say in the legislative process.
That may be a surprise for many Americans who recoil at the often-stunning partisan displays emanating regularly from the nation’s capital — contentious hearings and news conferences, floor fights, threats of government shutdowns.
But the dirty little secret in Washington is the most members want to make sure bipartisanship is alive and required to pass major bills, something the separates the Senate from the House where the majority rules with authority.
It’s in keeping with the “cooling saucer” theory the founding fathers envisioned for the upper chamber.
Republicans, who now control the House, Senate and White House, could reshape America if they eliminated super-majority requirement in the Senate. But most Republicans are resisting that temptation knowing they will one day be back in the minority and will benefit by being able to slow-down or block Democratic legislation they oppose.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said the founding fathers were right when they wanted to make it difficult to pass laws and said the filibuster — which requires 60 of 100 members to agree — is a proper mechanism to ensure that.
“The only way that happens is when we are forced to govern by consensus. That is, build sufficient votes in order to have some stability and durability of the laws we pass. Things like Medicare and Social Security, those were controversial in their day, but there was bipartisan consensus that supported them and that’s why they remain today,” he said during a floor speech.
Republicans did heed Trump’s call to eliminate the 60-vote requirement for Supreme Court nominees, leading to the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch early last month. But even then, senators for both sides pledged never to do that with legislation.
“It makes the Senate the Senate,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona of the need to maintain the filibuster for legislation. “The requirement that you need to reach across the aisle is a good thing. It makes legislation endure. You see what happens, like Obamacare, when one party pushes something through without the aid of the other party.”
In fact, on the day Gorsuch was confirmed, 61 senators of each party sent a letter to Senate leaders vowing never to support a change in Senate rules to get rid of it.
“We are mindful of the unique role the Senate plays in the legislative process, and we are steadfastly committed to ensuring that this great American institution continues to serve as the world’s greatest deliberative body,” they said.