Schumer Wins Round One

[ Posted Tuesday, January 26th, 2021 – 16:45 UTC ]

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer won his first big political battle against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last night. McConnell, in a fit of petulance, had dug in his heels and was refusing to agree to the new Senate rules proposed by Schumer which will dictate the chamber's power structure for the next two years. This is normally a routine vote, even with an evenly-balanced 50-50 Senate -- there wasn't much drama the last time this happened, when Tom Daschle and Trent Lott worked out an agreement. Essentially, Senate committees will be evenly divided between Democratic seats and Republican seats, but Democrats will still control what gets out of committee and (more importantly) what makes it to the Senate floor for a vote. After all, even though the Senate is evenly-divided, Vice President Kamala Harris is the deciding vote for the Democrats. But that's been true since last Wednesday, and yet McConnell blocked the new rules until today, which had left Republicans still chairing all the committees -- even though they're now in the minority.

McConnell wanted more (as is his wont) and he did what he does best -- obstruct the Senate from getting anything done. McConnell demanded that Schumer swear off (in the rules document) any possibility of killing the legislative filibuster. Schumer, quite rightly, refused. Without this threat hanging over McConnell, absolutely nothing would get done for the next two years. Even with the threat, it's still going to be hard because McConnell is going to attempt every ploy he knows to gum up the works (again, it's what he does best -- he even brags about it, campaigning as the Senate's "Grim Reaper").

President Joe Biden truly believes he can usher in a new era of bipartisan comity in Washington, including the Senate. This has not yet been put to the test, although (thankfully) his cabinet nominations are, so far, being confirmed with overwhelming majorities -- which could be a good sign. But this may not last long.

Biden, of course, has multiple crises to deal with at once, the most urgent of which is passing a pandemic relief bill with adequate money for speeding up the distribution of the vaccines. This (obviously) should have been done over six months ago, but Mitch McConnell refused to even consider it. Republicans somehow saw sending money to the states in the midst of the worst medical crisis the country has faced in over 100 years as "bailing out blue states." We're all paying the price for this partisan obstinacy now. Tomorrow, we may hit the goal of having the first 20 million people vaccinated -- a goal we were supposed to have achieved at the end of December. Speeding this up is going to take money, meaning if the Senate doesn't act, it's going to take over a year for everyone who wants the vaccine to get it. This, obviously, is unacceptable.

The urgency of this bill and the ones that will quickly follow (from the House, at any rate) are going to be the acid test of Biden's sincere belief that common ground with Senate Republicans can be achieved. But it's going to be a tough row to hoe, since the Democrats will not only need party unity (they can't afford to lose a single vote) but they will also need 10 Republicans willing to cross the aisle to defeat the almost-inevitable filibuster for each bill.

That's a high bar to reach. And if 10 Republicans aren't in the mood to cross the aisle in support of the bills, then they will stall. Which will be interesting, because this is the point where the threat of eliminating the filibuster should come into play.

Democrats are fully willing to use "budget reconciliation" rules to pass bills with just 50 votes, but this process is a lengthy one. It'd be far easier to pass normal bills with Republican support. And not everything can be lumped into the reconciliation loophole, either. So even with Bernie Sanders in charge of the Senate committee where budget reconciliation bills will be written, sooner or later Schumer and Biden may be forced to attempt killing off the filibuster forever.

The good news is that after Harry Reid set the precedent, the Senate rules can be changed by a simple majority vote. The bad news is that two Democrats (Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin) are already on the record as being strongly opposed to killing the filibuster. In fact, public statements to that effect from these two were what convinced McConnell to throw in the towel last night. And Joe Biden is also against the concept, although he could quickly change his opinion if McConnell does succeed in his usual scorched-earth obstructionist tactics.

The next few weeks -- call it two months, at the outside -- will be the test of all this. If important legislation can indeed pass the Senate and make it to Biden's desk, then few are going to still be pushing to eliminate the filibuster. But if nothing gets done (which seems much more likely), then it's going to become a very big issue indeed.

McConnell wanted to preclude it from even happening, down the road. He tried to strongarm Schumer into prematurely disarming. Apparently someone forgot to tell Mitch that he doesn't run the Senate any more. So kudos to Schumer for staying strong and refusing to give in before the crisis even hits. This won't be the last round of this fight, most likely, but it was good to see Democrats strongly resist McConnell, and ultimately force him to back down in this first skirmish.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


27 Comments on “Schumer Wins Round One”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i know a number of us have mentioned a return to the talking filibuster as an alternative option to killing it outright. have any other compromise measures been put on the table?

  2. [2] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Schumer told Rachel Maddow yesterday that he had asked President Biden to invoke the Emergency Powers Act and declare climate change a national emergency. If illegal immigration could be used to redirect congressional funds to build Trump’s wall; then an actual emergency like climate change should give Biden a lot of room to pass executive orders rather than trying to get the votes needed to pass legislation to combat climate change. That’s one way to avoid needing the nuclear option!

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The good news is that Mitch has met his match in Biden.

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:

    Biden has a nice game of good cop/bad cop going on... and he's both of the officers. :)

  5. [5] 
    John M wrote:

    [2] ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    "Schumer told Rachel Maddow yesterday that he had asked President Biden to invoke the Emergency Powers Act and declare climate change a national emergency. If illegal immigration could be used to redirect congressional funds to build Trump’s wall; then an actual emergency like climate change should give Biden a lot of room to pass executive orders rather than trying to get the votes needed to pass legislation to combat climate change. That’s one way to avoid needing the nuclear option!"

    Actually climate change is one of the things that could be passed thru budget reconciliation.

    I also want to correct one of the things I mentioned earlier, the usually pro forma Senate organizing resolution also needs 60 votes to be adopted. So if it wasn't, Republican chairman would indeed have been left in charge of Senate committees, even though Democrats are now in the majority.

    Also, the Republicans just tried to dismiss holding a trial against Trump at all. The vote was 55 to 45 to go ahead with an impeachment trial. Only 5 Republican Senators voted with all 50 Democrats to hold a trial. Mitch McConnell voted against a trial.

    This does not bode well for either Trump's conviction or for reaching 60 votes to end a filibuster.

    The 5 Republican Senators were: Pat Toomey, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Ben Sasse. At least we now know who are the reasonable and open minded ones, and who are willing to go along with insurrection, an assault on their own chamber, and an assault on democracy.

  6. [6] 
    John M wrote:

    I have heard there is a plan by Democrats to wrap the Covid relief bill, the Green New Deal, and the 15 dollar minimum wage into one piece of legislation and pass it through budget reconciliation with only a majority of 51 votes if need be. But that still leaves a lot of other very important legislation stuck with trying to get over the 60 vote filibuster hurdle, like The John Lewis Voting Rights Bill.

  7. [7] 
    TheStig wrote:


    So, you are still a Biden Fan. I was beginning to wonder.


    Even if Biden accepts donations greater than $200?

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    he should change his name to pie-den.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Yes, McConnell and Biden are a perfect match. They provide each other with all the excuses they both need to put on the show.

    Shocking. Positively shocking.

    Which means that you are way too predictable.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Yes, McConnell and Biden are a perfect match. They provide each other with all the excuses they both need to put on the show.

    Shocking. Positively shocking.

    Which means that you are way too predictable.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, THAT was worth saying twice. Ahem. Sigh.

  12. [12] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    If you and Biden start messing with 'global warming', by means of the 'Emergency Powers Act' or however, you're going to incur my wrath. I'm an avid home gardener nut, and when I started gardening 70 yrs ago, gardeners at my latitude and elevation regularly lost their home-grown tomato vines between 9-1 and 9-10, Now, 70 yrs later, we have on average, an extra 4 - 5 weeks to enjoy vine-ripened tomatoes, thanks I presume, to 'global warming'.

    Interestingly enough, that entire grace period we enjoy is entirely on the back end [Oct]. There seems to be no global warming whatsoever on our spring planting season end. If you start tinkering with 'global warming', send me a little of it in May

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    [17]Don - I give up.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    So, you are still a Biden Fan. I was beginning to wonder.

    Will be 'til the day I die. My problem is that my expectations of Biden are sky high, always have been, always will be.

  15. [15] 
    TheStig wrote:


    That is a rather dramatic change in your rules. Your slogan has been:

    Take big money, lose our votes. According to your website big money is anything over $200 per voter. This change looks a lot like selling your vote. Of course the deal can’t be enforced because ballots are anonymous...or are you advocating abolishing secret ballots. Fee for services.

    Dang! Reformation is so hard!

  16. [16] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    This quote is from an Atlantic article Seditionists Need a Way Back which references Columbia's efforts to reassimilate ex-FARC rebels.

    True believers—especially those who are unemployed, underemployed, or so far down the conspiracy-theory rabbit hole that they can no longer cope with ordinary life—are part of an intense, deeply connected, and, to them, profoundly satisfying community. In order to be pried away from it, they will have to be offered some appealing alternative, just as the ex–FARC members are offered the alternative of a legal life in society.

    It's not 74 million loonies we have to fetch back from the authoritarian abyss as, IMO some 5 to 10 million of those voters held their noses about Trump and voted against "Socialism" "defund the Police" and "abolish ICE." These Repugs stampeded out of fear, which is a Republican thing.

    But many are down the rabbit hole. It's essential to know that facts, logic and reason will not reach them. Their detachment from Trump will be an emotional process, kind of a sales process. And that's a tough one without the ability to persuade with, like, facts.

    And there's no way we can out hate them, boneheads they may be. Their shields go up instantly and that's all she wrote.

  17. [17] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    The best approach that I've found involves emphasizing commonality.

    When I speak with my couple of Trumanzie pals I do try to find as much that we mutually agree about as I can and this leaves a considerably shorter list of things that we disagree about.

    This tends to humanize us in each other's eyes as we see that we're not such a bad fellows after all. That we are not the enemy, we are us...we're 'Muricans, hello.

    I read about this on the Interwebs and tried it out with some success.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Very nice, MtnCaddy!

  19. [19] 
    TheStig wrote:


    What happened to your mantra “take big money, lose our votes.” Biden took donations greater than the One Demand limit of $200 in 2020. So by your One Demand rules you must not vote for him in 2024. He has violated your prime directive! You have drifted into the realm of exchanging your vote and or money for his political services. That is exactly what we already do - and have done for over 200 years.

  20. [20] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Gosh, if Schumer can ask Biden to issue an executive order declaring the War on Habitat a national emergency then Bernie and AOC could ask Biden to declare the pandemic a national emergency and give everyone medicare for all and a BMI until the pandemic is over.

    Wow, what a concept! Like some eight European countries did, right?

    As for the rest, I'd just change the capital gains tax back to the same rate we pay on ordinary income. This boondoggle dates back to the advent of the Reaganism® decades and needs undoing.

  21. [21] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    And, the concluding quote from this same article:

    Before they can be convinced otherwise, they will have to see some kind of future for themselves in an America run by Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and a Democratic Congress.

    I recognize that this is not what everyone wants to hear. Even as I write this, I can hear many readers of this article uttering a collective snort of annoyance. Quite a few, I imagine, feel that, having won the election, they don’t want to pay for a bunch of happy-clappy vaccine volunteers, or new roads in rural America, or mental-health services and life counseling for the MAGA-infected—let them learn to live with us. I can well imagine that, like the Colombians who hate the reintegration of FARC, many will resent every penny of public money, every ounce of political time, that is spent on the seditious minority. Some might even prefer an American version of de-Baathification: track down every last Capitol-riot sympathizer and shame them on social media, preferably with enough rigor that they lose their jobs.

    I know how they feel, because I often feel that way too. But then I remember: It won’t work. We’ll wake up the next morning, and they’ll still be there.

  22. [22] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    I live in the Pacific NW, so like you, global warming is not as much of a negative for us as it is for other parts of the world! (Seriously, some projections have the NW’s weather in 40 years looking much more like current day San Diego’s weather!).

    That would not be the case if I still lived in the Deep South, which will probably be desert land by 2060. They are already having temperatures in the mid-100 degrees with 100% humidity...which is why weather reports in the South usually give you two sets of info each day: (1)the actual temperature, and (2) the “what it feels like” temperature (which is typically the actual temp + 10 to 20 degrees in summer and -10 to 20 degrees in winter.)

  23. [23] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    MtnCaddy [23]

    That is definitely the best way to work with any group that you have a disagreement with — focus first on what you can agree on and then go from there slowly! I find that that it is better if I avoid getting in their face yelling for them to PROVE their Trump “FACTS” and go with a softer approach:

    “If I am trying to convince you that I am right and that you are wrong, what do I need to say to win you over to my side? What if I have no evidence or facts to support my claims, what —if anything— could I say to change your mind and agree with me? What if you have facts or evidence that support your claims, but I do not — is there any reason for you to change your mind and switch sides?”

    It takes some doing, but patiently working through what both sides are claiming has been the only way that I have been able to win over a Trump supporter. Sadly, most of them have chosen to go with the “there is no proof to support my belief, but I am still gonna believe it regardless of how wrong I may be!”

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:


    he should change his name to pie-den.

    He does like pie. ;)

  25. [25] 
    TheStig wrote:


    In 2020 Biden accepted donations greater than OD’s definition of Big Money. Your mantra is “take big money, lose our vote.” If you vote for him you are violating your own code as I understand it. I can’t find your webpage. So, have changed your code...yes or no? If you have changed the rules, I think you should rename your movement.

  26. [26] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Go to and take a look at Biden’s fundraising in 2020. He clobbered his opposition in both large and small money donations. Do you seriously think he is going to disarm unilaterally? To win your support? From your toothless one man crusade? Let me borrow one of your cliches...Get Real.

    Your concept is about as marketable as tennis without balls.

  27. [27] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    And for all you that want to say AGAIN that no one knows why they are casting the write in vote, that is why they sign up on the website.

    Write-in votes are not counted and/or not available in 42 states in America.

    And it doesn't have to happen in every state in 2022. So saying that not every person can participate because some states don't allow or count write-in votes is not a valid argument as there are plenty of states wheret it can be done in 2022 and then spread to other states in future elections.

    Bullshit. Write-in votes are only allowed in 8 states without a person paying a fee and/or collecting names to register.

    It is not a vote to elect a candidate so it doesn't have to be counted in the same manner as a vote to elect a write-in candidate.

    It is not a "vote" at all. It's disqualified and isn't counted at all. Your bullshit is voter disinformation that misinforms voters regarding the manner of casting a vote. The FBI/DOJ is now indicting people for doing that for Trump in 2016, and stay tuned, they're going to indict some more.

    Even if it does not count to elect a candidate if it is not counted for a candidate it will still have to counted as a vote cast that was disallowed as it was not for a qualified candidate so it will still be counted for the purpose it was cast.

    Incorrect... and voter disinformation. They aren't counted at all in the vast majority of states. Also, your website doesn't explain to voters that they can't actually cast a valid vote for themselves unless they jump through a shit-ton of hoops, and therefore it's a voter disinformation campaign that deprives people of casting a valid vote... and it's illegal:

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