Senate Democrats Must Muck Up Trump or the Resistance Must Make Them

Miles Mogulescu

The millions of women and men who joined the Women’s March, and the tens of thousands who showed up at airports this weekend to proclaim that  America is still the home of the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” demonstrate that a massive Resistance to the Trumpublican Blitzkreig is rapidly awakening.

The Resistance has no intention of giving Trump a honeymoon or waiting to see whether he really means to implement his racist, xenophobic, misogynist, kleptocratic agenda. Its message is, we’ll do everything in our power to stop the Trumpublican machine, putting our bodies on the line if necessary.

The question is, will elected Democrats follow the lead of the Resistance, using Senate rules to delay for months Republican attempts to rush through Trump’s deplorable Cabinet picks, repeal the Affordable Care Act, undo environmental and financial regulation, cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and weaken Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security? Or will they be their typically cautious selves and try to give the Trumpublicans a honeymoon?

If Senate Democrats and other elected Democrats try to accommodate to the Trumpublicans instead of using every available tool to fight back, then the Resistance has to force their hand, occupying their offices until they grow a backbone, and mounting primary challenges to recalcitrant Democrats if they don’t.

Here’s how Senate Democrats can delay the Trumpublican agenda into oblivion:

They can filibuster every remaining Trump Cabinet nominee, as well as most of the other 1,200-1,400 presidential appointments requiring Senate confirmation.

Although Senate Republicans can end each filibuster of Presidential nominees (other than Supreme Court justices) with 51 votes, it’s complicated and time consuming.

Multiple filibusters of multiple nominees, and other measures, can stymie the work of the Republican-controlled Senate for months, and eventually thwart it. To end a filibuster:

*At least 16 senators must sign a “cloture” petition.

*The cloture petition remains open for 2 business days.

*If then passed by 51 senators (60 senators for Supreme Court nominees and most other legislative matters) debate on the applicable matter is limited to 30 hours when the Senate is in session. (Since the Senate generally is only in session for a few hours a day and a few days a week, 30 hours can stretch into days or weeks.)

*After cloture, each Senator is entitled to an hour of debate on a first-come, first-served basis and may yield all or part of the hour to a floor manager or party leader.

*Most importantly, the adoption of a cloture motion prohibits the consideration of any other Senate business except by unanimous consent (which any one Senator may refuse to grant.)

So here’s how it adds up: If Senate Democrats filibuster all of Trump’s remaining Cabinet picks and most of his other appointments, they can block the Republican-controlled Senate from passing much other legislation for many months.

Why is this important? Because delay can mean victory for the majority of Americans who did not vote for Trump.

As I recently wrote in this space, Trumpublicans are trying to use the “Shock Doctrine” to roll back much of the New Deal and Great Society. As Naomi Klein pointed out in her book of the same title, only in times of economic or political crisis can oligarchic forces push through otherwise unpopular “free” market and neoliberal reforms—including massive cuts in the social safety net, tax cuts for the elites, privatization, and deregulation. In more normal times, their unpopularity make such measures unachievable.

But the crisis window for enacting such measures is short. As free market guru Milton Friedman—who was one of the originators of the Shock Doctrine strategy observed—a new administration generally only has 6-9 months to achieve sweeping neoliberal changes.

So, if Senate Democrats can tie up the Trumpublican neoliberal agenda for 6-9 months, there’s a good chance they can prevent much of it from ever being enacted.

Moreover, by speaking out on the Senate floor against the anti-worker, anti-middle class agenda of Trump’s nominees, they can convince many of the “forgotten people” that Trump is a con artist who’s acting in the interests of the economic elites, not of ordinary Americans.

Earlier, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hinted that Senate Democrats might employ such a delaying strategy. But as push has come to shove, they’ve seemingly abandoned it.

Even Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that she’ll vote to confirm Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing, a man, like so many Trump appointees, who is demonstrably unqualified for the job, and who opposes the mandate of the department he’s been nominated to lead.

Et tu, Senator Warren? That one really hurts. But as a newly minted member of the Senate Democratic leadership, Warren appears to be falling in line behind an establishment Democratic strategy of picking and choosing just a few Trump nominees to oppose.

This Democratic strategy aims to avoid being seen as obstructing much of Trump’s agenda. The unspoken rationale seems to be that, since eight Democratic senators are up for reelection in 2018 in states carried by Trump, they must not be viewed as being too anti-Trump if they’re going to win reelection.

But that strategy is dead wrong. In the unlikely event that Trump is still popular in two years, Republicans will probably retain the Senate anyway.

But if he’s not still popular (just look at his first 10 days) then, by failing to oppose the Trumpublican agenda with every tool at their disposal, Democrats will demoralize and demobilize their base.

In that event, many potential Democratic voters—including African Americans, Latinos, and younger voters—will likely stay home for the mid-term elections, just as they did for Hillary Clinton’s bland, issueless campaign.

Even if most Democratic Senators vote against some of the worst of the worst Trump nominees in the ordinary course of business, the nominees will still quickly sail through the Republican-controlled Senate. Republicans will then quickly turn to the Shock Doctrine to enact their anti-worker, pro-corporate, neoliberal agenda.

In sum, the only way for Democrats to block the Trumpublican neoliberal blitzkrieg is to use repeated filibusters to slow it to a halt.

And if Senate Democrats are unwilling to quickly adopt such a strategy, then the Resistance must occupy their offices and not leave until they agree to do so.

Occupy Minority Leader Schumer’s Office; Occupy Minority Whip Durbin’s office; occupy the office of every weak-kneed Democratic office-holder in your state; even, if necessary, occupy Warren’s office.

And if that doesn’t turn the Democratic leadership around to a strategy of delaying and obstructing the Trumpublican blitzkrieg, then the Resistance needs to mount primary challenges to a bunch of DINO Democrats, much as the Tea Party did with insufficiently reactionary Republicans.

As Naomi Klein recently wrote,

“Let us be clear: This is not a peaceful transition of power. It’s a corporate takeover. The interests that have long-since paid off both major parties to do their bidding have decided they are tired of playing the game. Apparently, all that wining and dining of politicians, all that cajoling and legalized bribery, insulted their sense of divine entitlement.

So now they are cutting out the middleman and doing what every top dog does when they want something done right—they are doing it themselves. Exxon for secretary of state. Hardee’s for secretary of labor. General Dynamics for secretary of defense. And the Goldman guys for pretty much everything that’s left. After decades of privatizing the state in bits and pieces, they decided to just go for the government itself. Neoliberalism’s final frontier. That’s why Trump and his appointees are laughing at the feeble objections over conflicts of interest—the whole thing is a conflict of interest, that’s the whole point.”

But the Resistance is rising. Establishment Democrats, including its Senate leadership, can either join it, get out of the way, or be crushed by history.

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