Trump’s call to end fil­i­buster may find al­lies af­ter midterms

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGHLIN

Pres­i­dent Trump is hav­ing a hard time sell­ing sen­a­tors on his call for an end to the fil­i­buster, but Repub­li­cans run­ning for the Sen­ate are prov­ing to be a much more ea­ger au­di­ence, sug­gest­ing re­in­force­ments could be on the way for Mr. Trump.

GOP can­di­dates in Sen­ate races in Vir­ginia and Ne­vada next year say they back Mr. Trump’s call to end the fil­i­buster, as do both GOP can­di­dates in Alabama’s spe­cial Sen­ate elec­tion later this year.

One of those, Sen. Luther Strange, who was ap­pointed to fill the Alabama seat left va­cant when Jeff Ses­sions be­came at­tor­ney gen­eral, changed his stance ear­lier this week and is re­vok­ing his sup­port for the fil­i­buster.

“Con­ver­sa­tions with the pres­i­dent have led me to the con­clu­sion that chang­ing the fil­i­buster rule is the only way we will be able to build the bor­der wall, rein in sanc­tu­ary cities, de­fund Planned Par­ent­hood, and give the Amer­i­can peo­ple real tax re­lief,” Mr. Strange said.

The fil­i­buster is a Sen­ate rule that re­quires a su­per­ma­jor­ity to pass most leg­is­la­tion. Over the course of Amer­i­can his­tory, it has be­come an iconic pro­tec­tion for the mi­nor­ity party, forc­ing bi­par­ti­san com­pro­mises on the big is­sues of the day.

But those in the ma­jor­ity in re­cent years have chafed un­der the fil­i­buster.

When they were in charge, Democrats, up­set that the rule was be­ing used to de­lay Pres­i­dent Obama’s ef­forts to fill court va­can­cies, voted to scrap the fil­i­buster for most nom­i­na­tion votes.

Now that the GOP is in charge, Mr. Trump says he wants faster ac­tion on his agenda.

“The fact that can­di­dates are run­ning against the fil­i­buster shows how po­lar­ized the cur­rent cli­mate has be­come and how peo­ple be­lieve the Sen­ate needs to be shaken up,” said Dar­rell M. West, di­rec­tor of Gov­er­nance Stud­ies at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion “Few peo­ple like grid­lock and they hope that get­ting rid of the fil­i­buster will speed con­gres­sional ac­tion.”

Still, those push­ing for a change are un­likely to suc­ceed any time soon.

Some 61 sen­a­tors from both par­ties signed a let­ter in April ex­press­ing sup­port for the fil­i­buster.

“There are not the votes in the Sen­ate, as I’ve said re­peat­edly to the pres­i­dent and to all of you, to change the rules of the Sen­ate,” Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, told re­porters last month.

Mr. Mc­Connell was a pro­lific user of the fil­i­buster in his ef­forts to stymie the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s leg­isla­tive agenda.

The irony is that Mc­Connell-aligned su­per PACs have spent mil­lions of dol­lars on be­half of Mr. Strange, who was among those who signed the April pro-fil­i­buster let­ter be­fore back­track­ing — and open­ing him­self up to ac­cu­sa­tions of flip-flop­ping.

Other GOP can­di­dates call­ing for an end to the fil­i­buster in­clude Danny Tarka­nian, who is run­ning in a GOP pri­mary against Sen. Dean Heller in Ne­vada; and Corey Stew­art, who is run­ning for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion in Vir­ginia.

“You ei­ther change minds or you change the sen­a­tors,” Mr. Stew­art said, adding that he be­lieves the fil­i­buster could be­come a cam­paign is­sue in the 2018 midterm elec­tions.

“It is be­ing used to com­pletely stymie the pres­i­dent’s agenda — even though he may have a Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the Sen­ate,” he said. “And if we don’t end the fil­i­buster we are never go­ing to able to get through the pres­i­dent’s agenda.”

Mr. Trump has re­peat­edly pushed to end the fil­i­buster, in­clud­ing last month when his frus­tra­tion over the stalled-out Oba­macare re­peal ef­fort led to an anti-fil­i­buster rant.

He pointed to bills he said could pass with­out the fil­i­buster, in­clud­ing Kate’s Law, a bill named af­ter 2015 mur­der vic­tim Kate Steinle, who po­lice say was killed by a re­peat-il­le­gal im­mi­grant in San Fran­cisco, a sanc­tu­ary city.

“If the Sen­ate Democrats ever got the chance, they would switch to a 51 ma­jor­ity vote in first minute. They are laugh­ing at R’s. MAKE CHANGE!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Veteran law­mak­ers sug­gest there would have to be a lot of turnover in 2018 for that to hap­pen.

“I don’t know of any in­cum­bent sen­a­tors who fa­vor elim­i­nat­ing the fil­i­buster,” for­mer Ari­zona Sen. Jon Kyl, who served un­der Mr. Mc­Connell as Sen­ate mi­nor­ity whip from 2007 to 2013, told The Wash­ing­ton Times on Thurs­day.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Luther Strange, Repub­li­can Alabama, said he changed his mind on end­ing the fil­i­buster af­ter talk­ing with Pres­i­dent Trump about get­ting his agenda pushed through.

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