AUSTIN, Texas, March 18, 2015 — Republicans continually make the case that the harder it is to pass legislation, the better. That is why the U.S. Senate has power to filibuster, which requires a super majority to squash debate on an issue. The idea behind this is to slow down the growth and power of government and to protect the rights of the minority.
Back in 2013 we continually saw national headlines about how Democrats in the U.S. Senate applied the “nuclear option” on the voting for judicial appointees. Republicans, of course decried the action, “It’s a sad day in the history of the Senate,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, calling the move a Democratic “power grab.”
Now in power, it appears Republicans are singing a different tune. On the conservative site Hot Air, writer Jazz Shaw noted that
“I was expecting some action out of the new Congress, but I really never saw this one coming. A group of Republican Senators led by Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) are floating the idea of further extending the nuclear option enacted by the Democrats to take filibusters off the table when considering nominees to the Supreme Court.”
Many Republicans are delighted by this potential over-reaching of power, in spite of how this is contrary to some of the most basic ideas of liberty.
Fast tracking (or halting) the ability to confirm nominees to the court is one thing, but in the new Texas Senate, there is an incredible power grab at play.
Candidate Dan Patrick argued that, if elected, he would be “the most conservative lieutenant governor” in the history of the state. His very first actions in that position make his prediction doubtful, if one interprets “conservative” as a philosophy to weaken the power of government.
WFAA in Austin reported
“With three strikes of the gavel, a new era began Wednesday in Texas politics as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick officially took over the Senate. Patrick’s first order of business was to change a 64-year-old rule known as the ‘2/3rds rule,’ which will now silence Democratic opposition. ‘I think the consequences of this vote will be great,’ said State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas).”
For over 60 years, 21 Senators — or two thirds of the body — were necessary to bring a bill to the floor for a vote. But, there are only 20 Republican senators, so the GOP lowered the limit to 19. With this action, Democrats are no longer needed.
During a taping for WFAA-TV’s Inside Texas Politics, Patrick said this measure will prevent the minority from obstructing the majority. In other words, it will make the majority (Republicans) more powerful. It is designed to crush the voice of the minority.
More important to those who support limited government (ostensibly, individuals like Lt. Gov. Patrick), this rule will make it easier for government to grow and to be more powerful. Not only does it oppress the voices of the minority, but it also promotes the over-reaching power of government. It makes it “easier” for government to take actions, of which advocates of less government are typically suspicious.
How is a stronger, more powerful Texas Senate a good thing for those who want less power in the hands of government at any level?
Tea party activists and conservative organizations, instead of being alarmed by the rule change, have largely ignored the story or celebrated it. Texas Breitbart flaunted the headline, “Texas Senate Tosses ‘Two Thirds’ Rule, Paving Way for Conservative Agenda.” In that article, the president of the conservative group, Empower Texans, Michael Quinn Sullivan, is quoted as saying
“‘Dan Patrick campaigned specifically on the need to reform the rule by which legislation is considered,’ said Sullivan. ‘That the leftists are going into an apocalyptic overdrive is indicative of just how important the Two-Thirds Rule was to them in killing conservative legislation — and how important it was for the Senate Rules to be reformed. Lt. Gov. Patrick and the Senate are to be complimented for doing what they promised.'”
Note the words, “conservative legislation.” Actually, rules like the one discussed always cut both ways — they have the power to kill liberal legislation as well. Preserving liberty and supporting minority rights (rule by law and not mob rule) are fundamental in maintaining a free society.
When liberals eventually take over the Texas Senate, these laws that back the Republican attack on freedom will then help Democrats do the exact same thing. It is amazing how opponents of “demagogues” and “despots” don’t mind such, as long as their party is promoting it.
This rule change is the form of promotion of big and powerful government that you would not expect from a person who envisions himself “the most conservative lieutennat governor” of any state, particularly of one like Texas. It is only a matter of time before such a rule change will eventually haunt him and his supporters.