For months, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Senate Democrats have talked about eliminating the filibuster. And with Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, the discussion by the Democrats has become even more extreme, with some Senators saying that they must get rid of the filibuster so that they can pack the Supreme Court. Even if not used to pack the Supreme Court, eliminating the filibuster would radically transform the Senate and our country.
Surprisingly, during the first presidential debate on Tuesday night, Biden refused to answer the question about the filibuster: “are you willing to tell the American people whether or not you will support either ending the filibuster or packing the court?” Instead of answering the question, Biden started talking about the need for people to vote.
Those who dislike Donald Trump may think it’s OK to let the Democrats run things for four years. “Never Trumpers” might be fearful of the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party but believe they could always fix things four years later -- that these are just the same scare tactics we hear every four years. But eliminating the filibuster makes this election very different.
Filibusters allow senators to hold the floor for as long as they want, thereby preventing legislation from being passed. The Senate can only end a filibuster with 60 or more votes.
No party has 60 seats in the Senate, so legislation requires some bipartisan support. Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer used to approvingly call the Senate “the cooling saucer for our politics – that can show the nation bipartisanship, compromise and progress.” But if Democrats end the filibuster, simple party-line majorities will be able to pass bills. And if the same party controls both the House and Senate, legislation will be able to zip right through Congress.
If Biden wins, he will likely pull the Senate with him. The election betting odds now estimate that the Democrats will have a 51-to-49 seat majority in the Senate.
The changes Democrats would bring could produce a very different country. Let’s look at their top priorities.
Biden promises on his first day in office to present legislation that would give citizenship to all of the estimated over 22 million undocumented immigrants in the country. The promises of free health insurance and citizenship, not to mention lack of border enforcement, would likely encourage even more illegal immigration into the country.
Democrats’ national platform promises to “stand united against” state voter photo ID requirements and the cleaning up of voter registration rolls. They also propose to make the United States the only country in the world to mandate mail-in balloting.
Democrats promise statehood to Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, thereby changing the Senate’s makeup by adding four reliably Democratic seats. They could pass campaign finance laws that make fundraising extremely difficult for challengers. They could even impose a new “fairness doctrine” that would eliminate conservative talk radio.
President Trump’s 200 federal judicial confirmations have only just brought the courts into conservative-liberal balance, with Democratic appointees still controlling circuit courts for 24 states, plus the D.C. circuit court. But Democrats can quickly undo this by passing legislation that expands the number of seats on these lower courts, ensuring massive judicial majorities on every circuit.
Those judicial majorities would ensure that all of the Democrats’ new laws pass constitutional muster. It would also let Democrats control redistricting, to increase their control of the U.S. House and state legislatures.
The Democrats’ platform this year includes gun bans and other regulations such as licensing and registration. This would quickly pass. Free speech would no longer be so free, as “hateful” speech would be criminalized.
The Biden administration would also establish a national commission to recommend what reparations be given to blacks for enduring slavery. And, of course, they will provide federal funding for abortions.
Teachers’ unions will be placated as Biden fulfills his promises to end competition from charter schools and voucher programs such as the DC Opportunity Scholarship program.
But teachers’ unions aren’t the only entities that would be protected from competition. Biden and congressional Democrats have also endorsed California’s new law that bans broad categories workers from being classified as freelancers or independent contractors. Uber, Lyft, and other gig-type businesses are talking about shutting down their operations in the state, and they might find themselves going out of business nationwide.
California and Nevada have already adopted ballot harvesting, which allows organized workers or volunteers to collect absentee ballots from voters and drop them off at a polling place or election office. Democrats may implement similar measures nationwide, further reducing the security of ballots by entrusting the delivery of ballots to partisan campaign employees.
All this and more can happen if Democrats end the filibuster. Democrats have only supported the filibuster in recent years because it prevented Republicans from undoing legislation they liked, such as the Affordable Care Act. Or from passing measures such as school vouchers or national reciprocity for concealed handgun permits.
Democrats now believe they could so fundamentally change the voting rules that they won’t even have to worry about Republicans getting back in power.
If Biden wins and Democrats control the Senate, the country may become unrecognizable.
* Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “Gun Control Myths: How politicians, the media, and botched "studies" have twisted the facts on gun control.”