The power of the purse?
By Robert Romano
"We just don't have the votes to get the outcome that we'd like."
That was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in an interview Monday with WYMT-TV, explaining why Congress will not be defunding Planned Parenthood this year despite explosive video showing organization employees talking about selling the body parts of unborn babies.
"I would remind all of your viewers, the way you make a law in this country, the Congress has to pass it, and the president has to sign it," McConnell said, adding, "The president's made it very clear he's not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood so that's another issue that awaits a new president hopefully with a different point of view."
Isn't it funny how when Democrats want to use Congress' power of the purse to block a Republican policy, it usually succeeds, but when Republicans attempt to use the same power, they always have to surrender in order to avert a government shutdown?
For example, when Republicans attempted to defund the health care law or President Barack Obama's executive amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants with U.S.-born children, Democrats denied cloture and, eventually, Republicans relented due to the shutdown threat.
Now, according to McConnell, to do anything about Planned Parenthood or anything else will require a Republican president to be elected in 2016. But won't Democrats just filibuster any meaningful legislation brought to the floor if and when there is a Republican in the White House?
Because in neither of the two past showdowns over Obamacare and executive amnesty did a bill ever reach Obama's desk to even veto.
So, even if a Republican president had been there, the problem is not who is sitting in the White House, but the use of Senate procedure. This has always been a problem. Since the advent of Rule XXII establishing cloture 98 years ago, Republicans have never had a filibuster-proof majority. And if history holds, they likely never will.
During the amnesty fight, nationally syndicated radio talk show host Mark Levin and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer called for Senate Republicans to simply abolish the filibuster — using precisely the same procedure former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) used to break a Republican filibuster and get some judges appointed.
Wrote Krauthammer, "My problem was the egregious way Reid changed the rule: by a simple majority, 52-48, with zero Republicans onboard (and three Democrats defecting)."
Of course, this was all against the rules. The same Senate rule that governs the filibuster requiring a three-fifths majority to invoke cloture on a bill also states, "to amend the Senate rules… the necessary affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the Senators present and voting."
But, so what? Why should the GOP constrain itself with rules the other party doesn't follow?
As Krauthammer noted, "What's the downside? Democrats showed in 2013 their willingness to trash Senate procedure for a mess of pottage — three judges on one court. If Republicans stand pat now, what's to stop Democrats from abolishing the filibuster altogether when it suits them in the future?"
Indeed. Otherwise, there will be two sets of rules in the Senate, one that applies to Republicans, with supermajorities imposed on the "ruling" party, and another that applies to Democrats, with simple majorities to conduct business.
So Republicans could wait until all they wish for comes true. They win the White House and hold the House and Senate. And then Democrats filibuster every meaningful piece of legislation that comes forward. And then what? Does anyone believe that's when Republicans would finally draw a line in the sand?
Unless they are willing to break the filibuster, expect little to be accomplished with Republicans in power when all they will have to offer their voters is excuses.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.