Is McConnell’s Filibuster Reform Threat Helpful?

What it could indicate about his priorities and “vision”

Musket enthusiast Mitch McConnell (photo: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons)

Mitch McConnell, from a speech given in the Senate on 3/16/21

The former Senate Majority Leader clearly intended this as a threat to stop Democrats from reforming or abolishing the filibuster. It could also at least partly reflect what he would like to do if given the opportunity in the future. Clarifying that seems helpful, especially since the GOP chose not to publish a platform in 2020 other than a resolution supporting the 45th POTUS. Apparently priority #1 was a tax cut favoring corporations and donor class members, which the Senate passed via budget reconciliation in 2017.

We might also consider who would benefit or suffer if the items in the apparent wish list above were enacted. The findings indicate that McConnell doesn’t share the concerns of most of his constituents. That is assuming they don’t prioritize governmental disfunction and status quo injustices.

Right to work laws

These can reduce union influence and keep wages lower than when they have more bargaining power. So that would presumably help CEOs while making it hard to get by with jobs in which unions can negotiate more livable wages.

Planned Parenthood

This organization provides healthcare to a lot of people, especially in rural areas with few hospitals or other providers (but a lot of Republican voters). A small fraction of that involves abortion services, which is ostensibly why GOP supporters love to scapegoat it. Defunding it would reduce healthcare services for a lot of people. Reduced clinic access is correlated with negative impacts on family finances and less use of preventive care. Provision of free contraception tends to have more public health benefits and larger abortion rate reductions.

Sanctuary cities

These are places where officials don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The legality of stopping federal funds from going to such cities is in doubt, though a conservative-dominated SCOTUS might allow it. This appears mostly a punitive effort. Effective immigration policy likely includes reforming laws, adding judges to process cases faster, and addressing “push factors” in countries that people are desperate to leave.

Domestic energy production

This presumably refers to expanded fossil fuel extraction and refinement. In theory it could include solar and wind, but that wouldn’t work well as a threat to Libs who support electrification and increased use of renewables. The GOP has a long history of close relationships with oil and gas companies. That is increasingly problematic for the increasing number of Americans acknowledging the role of fossil fuels in accelerating climate change and who consider related disasters a top threat to public safety and national security.

“Conscience and the right to life of the unborn”

This refers to more restrictive abortion laws. As noted above, those generally cause harm without much if any benefit other than for certain conservative politicians.

Concealed carry reciprocity

This refers to people being able to carry concealed weapons in any state. Increasing the number of guns in circulation would no doubt benefit gun manufacturers. The likely cost would be more shootings.

“Massive hardening of security on our Southern border”

This would be a means to reduce immigration and asylum-seeking by brown people. It wouldn’t address underlying causes of immigration, but it would benefit construction workers and those seeking work in immigration with minimal vetting. This compares to how making drug laws stricter doesn’t prevent emotional distress and other factors driving drug use but does require more police officers and prison guards.

It’s possible to see why McConnell’s threats might spook Democratic senators who either pretend to or actually care about their constituents’ wellbeing. If enacted, the policies he lists would do significant economic, physical, or emotional harm to many of them. The immediate beneficiaries would appear to be some of his wealthiest campaign donors, emergency medical facilities, Exxon-Mobile, gun manufacturers, and people seeking jobs in border security.

This could reflect his actual priorities. Or he might just be willing to threaten to take his ball and go home in order to get his way. We’ve seen that before, like in temporarily blocking the Zadroga Acts of 2015 and 2019 to cover healthcare for 9/11 first responders. Regardless, he clearly supports keeping the filibuster as is and continued senatorial gridlock. The last two presidential administrations have largely taken over legislating through executive orders. Supporting such an abdication of legislative responsibility suggests a cynicism or disinterest in addressing serious challenges that make him ill-suited for public service.

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Non-profit founder, musician, coach, X-C skier/CrossFitter, artist, concerned citizen, mammal (not necessarily in that order). See for more.

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Tyson Victor Weems

Non-profit founder, musician, coach, X-C skier/CrossFitter, artist, concerned citizen, mammal (not necessarily in that order). See for more.