The GOP is rigging the system right before our eyes
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at CPAC 2011 (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

President Joe Biden's Covid relief package is widely popular with both Democratic and Republican voters, yet not one Republican senator looks like he or she will vote for it.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Equally popular is bringing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, something the Senate parliamentarian — someone no one elected to office — ruled cannot be in the relief package passed under budget reconciliation. (Frankly, I'm with those House Democrats who say ignore the parliamentarian — which the party in power has the option of doing — because we have nothing to lose and everything to gain).

An effort to raise the minimum wage as a standalone bill will likely not get 10 GOP senators needed to avert a filibuster. Nor will the broad LGBTQ anti-discrimination bill, The Equality Act, passed last week by the House. Nor will HR 1, the For the People Act, which will dramatically expand access to voting across the country and stop the anti-democratic agenda of the GOP. Nor will the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which will halt what the Supreme Court is systematically doing in allowing states like Texas, Georgia, Arizona and many others to radically suppress Black votes and steal elections.

And it simply doesn't matter that all of these bills have popular support among Americans.

Republicans couldn't care less about that. They're confident in installing minority rule and — despite Democrats having control of the White House right now and a slim grip on the House and the Senate — the GOP'a put everything in place to allow for it, including the ability to protect themselves against the will of the majority.

That's why there will no ramifications for the GOP for not supporting Biden's agenda and for blocking him and Democrats from getting these important initiatives passed — unless Democrats get very bold, very fast.

The GOP has gerrymandered the House radically — and that will only continue, as they made bigger wins in state legislatures in 2020, and thus have the power to redistrict and gerrymander further. And the Senate has always been rigged to help the GOP and is only getting worse, with millions of Americans in states like California and New York having far less representation and voting power in the Senate than those in Wyoming, South Dakota and Idaho.

The Supreme Court, which the GOP stacked under Donald Trump, is helping to make sure the Republican Party maintains its grip. In oral arguments regarding Arizona's GOP-passed voting restrictions this week, the Supreme Court's conservative block signaled it will further gut the Voting Right Act of 1965, which it had already stripped bare in 2013. That should be a red alert to everyone.

And the corporate media and Beltway "both sides" press, always cowed by the GOP, will also help the GOP enormously: If the Republicans block Biden's agenda, mainstream journalists will report it as Biden and the Democrats "not compromising" — without pointing out that the GOP in Congress represents a minority of Americans and is hindering the majority of Americans who want vital bills passed. Unfortunately, this then is absorbed by a lot of voters who don't follow politics very carefully. Democrats are hit with the blame — and voters then take it out on them.

That's true of independents who don't have an allegiance to either party and who voted for Democrats but might sway back to the GOP, but it's also true of the progressive base voters of the Democratic Party, many of whom will be disgusted at Democrats' lack of fight, and then just stay home in the next election, no matter how much activists try to get them out. Who could blame them for believing that politics just doesn't work for them?

If, however, Democrats were to get major legislation signed into law — boldly doing whatever it takes — and deliver for the majority of Americans who support their initiatives, not only would democracy actually work, but Republicans would be hurt by it. Voters would see that, no, this isn't about Democrats not working with Republicans — it's about Republicans not representing the majority's interests and cutting themselves out of the process. There simply would be no other way for the media to spin it, or for Republicans to spin it to the media.

That's why it's vital that Democrats end or reform the filibuster, something I'm sure I sound like a broken record on — but it's do or die right now. Standing in the way are two Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who's been opposed to ending the filibuster, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who said when asked in recent days about when he might be open to ending the filibuster, "Jesus Christ, what don't you understand about 'never'?"

This is a pathetic state of affairs. Many Democratic senators, from Elizabeth Warren to Jeff Merkley, have publicly called for ending or reforming the filibuster, and surely they're frustrated with Sinema and Manchin. As Norm Ornstein wrote earlier this week in the Washington Post:

Democrats are right to see the urgency: Republican state lawmakers around the country are moving to enact voter suppression measures that will, if passed, put the slender Democratic majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives in jeopardy in 2022 and beyond. Without democracy reform, and with the Supreme Court's recent assaults on the Voting Rights Act, sticking with the filibuster could make it nearly impossible for the Biden administration to pursue its agenda.

Ornstein proposes reforms to the Senate filibuster which wouldn't kill it but would gut it, and which might make these two senators comfortable. There have been various proposals to reform the filibuster for legislation without killing it completely, including exempting the filibuster solely for bills pertaining to voting and/or civil rights.

What we're not hearing about right now is how these two senators are being brought into discussions with other Democrats and the White House about what it will take for them to agree to some kind of reform that will allow crucial legislation to pass. Until that happens, it's hard to take seriously those Democrats, including the president, who say they're doing everything they can to move legislation through the Senate and stopping the GOP from blocking it.

Because the only way to do that is to get all 50 Democratic senators — including Sinema and Manchin — to agree to change the filibuster, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. And if we're not seeing those efforts on the part of every Democratic leader, then the inability to get their agenda passed — and the losses that may come in 2022 and beyond — is on every single one of them.