WASHINGTON ― With Republicans in control of the House, the Senate and, come January, the White House, calls have come from some quarters of the Republican Party to eliminate the filibuster and ram through an unadulterated Trumpian agenda.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday thoroughly rejected that approach. “That’s a horrible, terrible idea,” he said after an off-camera briefing with reporters in the Capitol.
Asked if he’d vote against the effort if it came to the Senate floor, he said he would “in a heartbeat.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has so far shown no indication he plans to pursue what’s known as the nuclear option. But if he did, just three Republican “no” votes would stop the measure from passing. Republicans hold 51 seats, and will have 52 if they win an upcoming election in Louisiana as expected. Graham would not have great difficulty finding a handful of allies in opposing the elimination of the filibuster.
On a political level, McConnell may actually benefit from the filibuster being in place. First, it could serve to check Donald Trump’s power, which has the counter-effect of increasing McConnell’s. And second, Democrats who filibuster Trump’s agenda can then be attacked in 2018 midterms. When the Trump faithful demand to know why, say, Obamacare has yet to be repealed, McConnell will be ready with an answer: obstructionist Democrats.
Graham was a strident opponent of Trump during the campaign, but said he has hope Trump will succeed and he stands ready to work with him on areas where there is mutual agreement.
Requiring Trump to work with Democrats, Graham added, gives him the chance to make the kinds of deals he wants to make. “There are deals to be made in this body ― big, huge deals,” he said.
“I don’t think he’s an ideologue,” Graham went on. “He lives in a world where the other side has to get something. So in that regard, he has a unique position here. He’s not beholden to any one element. He’s truly an outsider and if he will bring us all together and bring us around a table, some of this stuff will fall into place pretty quickly. To those Democrats who are going to hit him at every turn, you do so at your own peril.”
Some Republicans in the House, however, want to see the filibuster nuked, saying it is the only thing that can prevent Trump and the GOP from carrying out all their plans.
“If the Senate keeps the filibuster rule, they are ceding to the Democrats the power to block every constructive change we need to make legislatively,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) “And so the Senate needs to make a decision. Are they going to be with the American people or were the Republican senators sent to Washington, D.C., to empower Democrats to reimpose gridlock?”
Brooks was not impressed by the argument that many senators on both sides of the aisle might object on the grounds of protecting both the institution and minority party rights.
“They may object, but if they do not eliminate the filibuster, then they are agreeing to give control of our legislation to the Democrats that we just worked so hard to beat in November,” Brooks said.