(CNSNews.com) - Conservative Rep. Tom McClintock (R.-Calif.) told CNSNews.com that the Senate needs to reform its cloture rule so that substantive legislation dealing with issues such as cutting taxes and repealing Obamacare can be passed by a simple majority vote.
Under the current cloture rule, a Senate majority needs 60 votes to end debate on a bill and bring it to a final vote.
“The fundamental problem,” McClintock said in an Nov. 17 interview, “is Senate Republicans have made a choice: They will not reform their cloture rule, which gives Chuck Schumer the ability to veto any legislation he doesn’t like unless you’re trying to do it through something like reconciliation.”
“The House has sent hundreds of bills over to the Senate this year, including a major deregulatory bill that repeals the parts of Dodd-Frank that have absolutely destroyed our community banks, where so many local loans originate,” said McClintock. “All of that is sitting over in the Senate because the Senate Republicans choose not to reform their cloture rule.”
McClintock warned that if the Republican Senate majority leaves the current cloture rule in place, they will block President Trump’s legislative agenda now, but that when Democrats take back the Senate, Chuck Schumer, as the new majority leader, would immediately change the rule and end the filibuster.
Under the current cloture rule, when regular legislation is brought up in the Senate, the minority party can block it if it can prevent the majority from finding 60 votes to end debate on the bill.
Thus, a bill that has been approved by the House and has as many as 59 votes in the Senate may never be sent to the president for his signature because 41 senators using a procedural rule to block a final vote.
To get around this “cloture” rule in the Senate, the Republican leaders in Congress used the “reconciliation” procedure in their attempt to enact a partial repeal of Obamacare and in their current move to cut taxes.
Under “reconciliation,” the House and Senate budget committees must pass a budget resolution that is approved by majorities in both chambers. If the resolution calls on Congress to enact legislation making budgetary changes, those changes can be passed and sent to the president by a simple majority vote in both houses.
“A lot of the problems that we had with the health-care measure, a lot of the problems that we are having with this [the tax] measure, are because we are trying to bypass the cloture rule in the Senate through a budget process called reconciliation, which uses Byzantine and often ridiculous rules that we have to conform to,” said McClintock.
“You end up with a much less satisfactory policy bill because it was never designed to be used for policy,” he said.
Here is an excerpt from CNSNews.com interview with McClintock:
McClintock: It would be a lot simpler if the Senate Republicans would choose to reform their cloture rule. A lot of the problems that we had with the health-care measure, a lot of the problems that we are having with this measure, are because we are trying to bypass the cloture rule in the Senate through a budget process called reconciliation, which uses Byzantine and often ridiculous rules that we have to conform to. You end up with a much less satisfactory policy bill because it was never designed to be used for policy. It’s strictly a budget reconciliation issue. So, the fundamental problem is Senate Republicans have made a choice: They will not reform their cloture rule, which gives Chuck Schumer the ability to veto any legislation he doesn’t like unless you’re trying to do it through something like reconciliation.
Jeffrey: So, congressman, if it were up to you, if you were leading the Senate, you would say get rid of the filibuster of legislative issues, we are going to have majority vote here in the Senate.
McClintock: Well, exactly. And you don’t have to even get rid of it, you can reform it. I did a lengthy article for Hillsdale College. It was printed in their Imprimis last year that outlined how they can do it while still preserving the best parts of the intention of them measure, which is to preserve debate. The problem is this is a motion that originally arose to protect debate and it has since devolved into a motion that prevents any debate.
Jeffrey: But if they made that change, they not only would be able to pass tax cuts by a simple majority vote, without the reconciliation process, they’d also be able to repeal Obamacare by a simple majority vote. Correct?
McClintock: Correct and replace it with a comprehensive free-market plan that puts every consumer back in charge of their health care--and, by the way, every other bill that the House has sent over to the Senate. The House has sent hundreds of bills over to the Senate this year, including a major deregulatory bill that repeals the parts of Dodd-Frank that have absolutely destroyed our community banks, where so many local loans originate. All of that is sitting over in the Senate because the Senate Republicans choose not to reform their cloture rule.
Jeffrey: And to change that filibuster rule, Mitch McConnell would just need the majority votes, get the Republican votes in the Senate, and they can do it.
McClintock: That is correct. And it is not as if they have not done it before. They did it for Judge Gorsuch. But they won’t do it for vital legislation.
Jeffrey: So, they got Gorsuch into [through] the Senate by getting rid of the filibuster of Supreme Court nominees, but they wouldn’t do it for repealing Obamacare.
McClintock: Or tax reform, or the hundreds of other bills that the House has sent over to them to implement the Trump agenda.
Jeffrey: And how many times in your life have you seen Republicans in the Senate use the filibuster the way Chuck Schumer uses it?
McClintock: Oh, well, they didn’t. And this is another thing, when you talk to them, they’ll say: Oh, well, you know, we were able during the first term of the Obama presidency, during the Pelosi Congress, we were able to stop a lot of bad bills. And--
Jeffrey: Like Obamacare.
McClintock: And you’re right, it’s good at stopping bad bills, it’s also very good at stopping good bills. And you guys had better decide whether you want to be a successful majority or a successful minority. And don’t think for a moment that you are preserving this option for your fast-approaching time in the minority because Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, when they thought they were going to take over the Senate in 2016, both made very clear that was the first thing that was going to go. So, what the Senate Republicans are doing is absolutely self-destructive.
Jeffrey: So, you believe they are restraining themselves now from excellent tax reform and from repealing Obamacare, but when Schumer becomes leader he will throw out the filibuster in a moment.
McClintock: He already made that very clear in the election approaching 2016. And, frankly, he would be a fool not to.
Jeffrey: Congressman McClintock, thank you very much.
You can watch the entire interview here: