The term “cloture” does not appear in the U.S. Constitution. But it is a tradition that goes back many years. Established in 1917, it’s a requirement that the Senate needs a three-fifths vote to move legislation forward in that legislative body. It was also the rule to approve federal judges. Prior to 1975, the requirement was two-thirds vote.
In 2013, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used a rare parliamentary move known as the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules so that federal judicial nominees, and executive-office appointments, could advance to confirmation votes by a simple majority of senators, rather than the 60-vote supermajority that was standard for nearly four decades.
The change in Senate rule was made to allow President Obama to stack the D.C. Court of Appeals with liberal judges. Reed recognized that the D.C. court was essential for challenges to Obama Care.
When Reed disregarded the 60-vote requirement for District Court judges, he set the stage for changes far beyond his Senate tenure. Knowing that it would take Democrat votes to confirm a U.S. Supreme judge, recent Republican presidents needed to nominate more moderate judges. David Souter, Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor were Republican appointees. At best, they voted moderately in court. Truly conservative judges were seldom considered.
The results? Donald Trump was able to appoint 231 federal judges and three Supreme Court justices because of Reed’s decision to change the Senate rules. That changed history.
Now the conversation turns to the abolishment of cloture completely. While that seems a positive step to help President Biden push through his liberal agenda, it does not come without baggage.
Democrats need to remember the Harry Reed lesson. With new rules, new changes in Congress can and will affect the future of America. Removing a cloture vote will give Biden, and Democrats, freedom to pass any laws they wish now. What will happen when Republicans become the majority?
The purpose of cloture was to slow down legislation and seriously deliberate every potential new law. A simple majority today would probably result in wide swinging federal legislation that would change the very foundation of America. Given freedom to make changes, Biden could virtually stop oil and coal production. He could pursue, unchallenged, the Green New Deal. Legislation could pass that would buy favor from certain ethnic or political groups. And, legislation could pass to punish political enemies.
A change in the White House and congress could unravel Biden’s achievements and swing laws just as sweeping back the other way. It would be like a card game being played in Washington, D.C. Duces and one-eyed jacks wild. Why not simply make all red cards wild? There would be no end to the reach of new federal legislation. All that activity would most definitely change the US government and its ability to govern.
The U.S. Supreme Court now has nine justices. It has not always been that size, but it’s been that number since the Civil War. Packing the court now could result in 13 justices. That could happen without cloture in the Senate. Would it stop there? A change in power could result with Republicans making the court even larger. How many judges would it take before common sense reestablished itself; 25 to 30?
Consider making Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico new states. That would give Democrats four new Senate seats. It would likely not stop with two new states. Again, a change in the Senate invites other states to split into two separate political centers. California, Illinois, New York, Colorado and other states are being ruled by at least one large city. A liberal city makes the entire state liberal. If Democrats desire to make the United States a 52-state union, they need to consider what happens when Republicans take power. We could end up with a 58-state union.
The U.S. Constitution was a carefully thought-out document. It provides for change. It provides for objection and descent. It provides for a body of government to go wildly out of control. And, it provides for correction. It has failed only once in American history. In the 1850s, two opposite views, held by unmovable sides, resulted in the Civil War, 1861. Not since that war has America been so divided. The question is if we can resolve our differences now, in a peaceful manner?
H. Steven Cronquist has been a local independent insurance broker since 1974. He is also the principal at Bakersfield Institute of Continuing Education, an educational provider for California insurance to obtain their required educational hours for license renewal.