Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the floor this week to warn he would ensure a "scorched-earth" Senate if Democrats abolished or weakened the filibuster to pass voting rights reform.
His speech earned widespread mockery, and some political experts suggested it was an empty threat, since he has essentially run the Senate this way for years anyway. Others speculated his real fear may be that GOP policies are unpopular, and the filibuster gives them cover to not pass them.
But Greg Sargent, writing for The Washington Post, offered another intriguing theory of what McConnell is afraid of.
"In a filibuster-free Senate, if one party does things by simple majority, then power will shift eventually, and the other party can just theoretically undo via simple majority the things that the opposition did while in power. The rub is that this would be harder for Republicans to do than Democrats," wrote Sargent. "Jason Richwine suggests an interesting reason for this: GOP priorities such as concealed-carry reciprocity and defunding Planned Parenthood are not structural or transformative changes, whereas Democratic priorities such as legalizing millions of immigrants or expanding voting rights do constitute such deep changes."
"Indeed, there's still another reason why it might be harder to reverse Democratic policies than Republican ones: The former are likely to be more popular once enacted," wrote Sargent. "It would be politically harder to reverse the legalization of millions of immigrants or an expansion of voting rights than it would be to reverse concealed-carry or the defunding of Planned Parenthood. (There are exceptions — something like national voter ID, if legally doable, could be popular.)"
In fact, Sargent argued, we have seen this firsthand in 2017, when Republicans had full control and tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act — a massively unpopular push that triggered backlash and divided the caucus to the point the legislation failed.
"All of this reveals another deep asymmetry between the two parties," wrote Sargent. "Republicans probably have more to fear from ending the filibuster because the changes they'd pursue would be more easily reversed, as their core priorities are just less popular. Meanwhile, if some of the leading Democratic priorities being entertained right now do pass, the public is more likely to want to keep them."
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