Nuclear Option: Democrats Consider Plan B That Would End American Elections as We Know Them
Senate Democrats have been struggling to come to terms with the fact that two of their own came out in support of the filibuster last week, effectively ending their hopes of passing a “voting rights” package aimed at federalizing elections.
Or so we thought.
According to a new report from The Hill, some Democrats are now considering a new strategy in hopes of passing the package.
Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told reporters he and some colleagues are considering forcing Republicans to hold the Senate floor with arguments in hopes that they will grow tired and allow Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to call for a simple-majority vote.
“There are a couple of paths here,” Kaine said. “Do we go down the path and do a long debate until it’s done and then have a simple debate?”
“We wouldn’t need a rules change to pass the bill by simple majority if the debate is over. Theoretically, you do not need a rules change to pass a bill that’s on the floor, you just have to allow debate to occur.”
Kaine is correct by the strict definition of the rules, The Hill reported. The 60-vote threshold is required to pass the cloture vote to end debate, but a simple majority could be used if the debate has concluded.
However, this strategy has not been used in decades, the Hill reported. Instead, Senate members have simply assumed the floor is “being tied up in debate when a controversial bill is pending.”
Senate procedure expert James Wallner said it would be possible for the Democrats to pass the package with a simple majority by enforcing a strict definition of Senate rules.
“The easiest way to get to final passage on this bill is to put it on the floor and have Vice President Kamala Harris or Majority Leader Schumer or any other senator start to make points of order against any senator who tries to speak more than twice,” Wallner said.
According to The Hill, Wallner was referring to Senate Rule XIX, which states that “no senator shall speak more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same legislative day without leave of the Senate.”
This rule has also not been enforced, an anonymous Senate Democrat aide told The Hill. He seemed less optimistic about the Democrats’ chances to pass the package via simple majority.
“This requires a more aggressive presiding officer,” the aide said. “The parliamentarian is not going to advise the presiding officer, ‘Nobody seems to be seeking debate so bring the question.’ It will have to be affirmatively sought by the presiding officer.”
In addition, the aide said Republicans could circumvent the two-speech rule by constantly bringing up new motions to change the bills.
“The two-speech rule is hard to make work because you can always offer another amendment or bring up a new debate proposition and then get two more speeches out of that,” the aide said.
“And once again, the parliamentarian doesn’t look to enforce it again, so it would have to be presiding officer causing the parliamentarian to do something they don’t traditionally do.”
This would allow Republicans to continue debating for weeks or longer by constantly offering amendments, and the stalemate would most likely continue. That is the very reason why the Senate has adopted the practice of assuming a cloture vote is needed without going through weeks of endless debating.
If the Democrats employed this strategy, it would not be a nuclear option in a technical sense, because it wouldn’t require them to change Senate rules.
However, it would have the same effect, which amounts to Senate Democrats ignoring decades of precedent and passing major legislation with only 51 votes.
In the end, it once again proves Democrats are unable to grasp the idea that the majority of Americans do not support their vast government overreach.
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