The Republican Obamacare repeal bill has set off quite a firestorm. Here’s why:
The repeal bill doesn’t simply repeal it in total. Instead, it repeals parts of it and leaves others behind. This could be a Republican betrayal in part. But there’s another reason.
In order to fully repeal Obamacare under the present senate rules, 60 senators would have to vote for the bill. There are presently only 52 Republicans. Thus, the Republicans have to use reconciliation in order to pass it. That only requires a simple majority of 51 senators. However, in order to use reconciliation, the bill must be budget neutral for the next 10 years. Thus, it’s impossible to remove all of Obamacare with this method, since it would have an effect on the budget.
This leads to two options:
One, pass a partial repeal using reconciliation.
Two, change the senate rules to remove the 60 vote threshold and pass a full repeal.
There are hot opinions on both sides. For example, Sundance of the Conservative Treehouse, thinks changing the senate rules would be a mistake:
Accepting the Democrats will not vote to repeal their signature law… The only way to fully repeal ObamaCare as an independent bill, and overcome the 60 vote threshold, would be to eliminate the filibuster rule (3/5ths vote threshold or 60 votes) in the Senate and drop the vote threshold to 51 votes, a simple majority.
However, if the Senate was to drop to a simple majority vote for all legislation the entire premise of the upper chamber is gone. Forever.
There would no longer be any difference in the House or Senate for vote thresholds, and as a consequence there would no longer be any legislative protections for the minority positions. What this means is the constitutional republic is gone.
The constitutional republic would be replaced with a pure majority rule democracy. The founding fathers regarded majority rule democracy less than a monarchy, because a simple majority means mob rule. At least in a monarchy you might get a wise king once-in-a-while. In a mob rule democracy emotion drives everything. You go from being a nation of laws, to a nation of laws of the moment based on emotion.
This is both overstating and misunderstanding the situation.
The mere senate rule of 60 votes instead of 51 is not the bastion of constitutional government Sundance is making it out to be. If a mere nine senators is what stands between ‘mob rule’ and constitutional government, then clearly it’s gone already.
All this talk about the ‘constitutional republic’ and ‘mob rule’ and the founding fathers shows too many people are living in the past. Anyone with a semblance of sense can see that the US government is nothing like what the founders had laid out. And so what? The system the founders made had serious problems. And correcting some of their errors has produced problems of its own. The fact is, it’s impossible to make a perfect government. That’s because you usually can’t get an improvement in one place that doesn’t produce a problem somewhere else.
Let me give you an example.
During the 1800s, before the Civil Service laws were made, the entire federal workforce could, and would, be fired by the incoming administration. So if Republicans beat Democrats, the Dems would all be turned out of office. And vice versa.
The Civil Service laws were made to remove government employment from the realm of politics. The goal was to make it so that only the most qualified would be hired by using merit-based exams. Additionally, it became impossible to fire a man simply because he belonged to the other party.
But this produced a problem. Nobody in government lacks a political opinion. They aren’t mere apolitical functionaries. So whilst they have been protected from political hiring and firing, the government is not protected from their activities, or lack thereof. What this means is you can have a ‘deep state’ of thousands of federal bureaucrats working to undermine a president and there’s nothing he can do about it.
Let me give you another example.
The selection of senators by state legislatures was in the original constitution. It’s touted endlessly by ‘constitutional conservatives’ as a great way to give the government back to the people. But that isn’t true.
The fact is, amending the constitution to make senators directly elected gave people more power. This is because the senators were never actually chosen by the people. Instead, they were chosen by state party bosses. Directly electing senators put a great deal more transparency into politics than the system originally had, because it damaged that sub-layer of political bosses who really ran the nation’s politics.
So it’s not a neat and clean issue. Simply doing what the founders did is not automatically the right choice.
To return to the senate rules, yes, the Democrats will abuse the simple majority when they get back into power. But do the Republicans have a choice?
The fact is, changing the senate rules is nearly mandatory for the Republicans to be able to govern. Decades of immigration have turned many states permanently blue. The chance of Republicans actually getting sixty senators is slim, unless Trump republicans run in the blue states that Trump carried. Then it’s possible.
But will that happen? Will the various state GOPs run Trump candidates, or ‘constitutional conservative’ windbags who don’t know anything about how to govern? In short, will they run a bunch of ‘Freedom Caucus’ types?
Or will the local parties run establishment types who are heavily funded by business in order to stop Trump’s nationalist agenda?
Or will we get self-seeking flakes who want to ride Trump’s momentum to the big time?
One can only speculate. But while it’s possible that Trump will be able to drag eight Republicans to victory, I wouldn’t bet on it.
So what can be done? I’d say, pass as many measures as the GOP can before the 2018 elections, and then see how the electoral map looks. If the states Trump won have enough vulnerable Dems, then wait on changing the rules. If not, change the rules.