Moulitsas and Fiddler opened the show by discussing the latest developments in the debate over the filibuster, which has been used as a tool to stymie legislative progress in the U.S. Senate. As there is no constitutional base for the filibuster, Moulitsas said, ending it is long overdue.
Fiddler agreed, saying, “If Democrats don’t do something with the filibuster, either get rid of it hopefully altogether, or at least drastically reform it so that you really, really have to keep talking the whole time to keep it going, nothing else gets done before midterms. That’s just how it is.”
Fiddler, who has spent years tracking important legislation and happenings across U.S. statehouses, also noted that the type of filibuster process that the Senate has simply does not exist in most state legislatures, indicating that it does not seem widely viewed as a necessary procedure.
Moulitsas noted the filibuster’s use as a manipulative political tool, citing Mitch McConnell’s machinations around the filibuster:
[Mitch McConnell] has eliminated the filibuster when it suited him, such as Supreme Court nominations, and he kept the filibuster for legislative matters the last couple of years because there was nothing to pass—there was no purpose in him eliminating the legislative filibuster, because he would’ve gotten no gains from it.
The filibuster could stand in the way of much of the legislation that Democrats aim to pass over the next few years, and it is also intertwined with the issue of the courts, and Fallon hit on this point when he joined the show to talk about the importance of judicial reforms as a priority for progressives. Fallon believes that judicial reforms are crucial to rebalancing the courts and making them less prone to purposeful partisan nominee stacking and manipulation over time. As he explained:
We have some work to do to get elected Democrats in the House and the Senate to view judicial reforms in the same way they do H.R. 1, … it will probably be filibustered multiple times … and I think all those things will serve to bring … things to a head, causing them to get rid of the filibuster. But when it comes time to decide what proposals are we going to move under the new rules of the 51-vote basis, we can’t forget about adding seats to the Supreme Court and adding seats at the lower court level … because it will literally negate the point of passing all these other bills.
If we go to the trouble of getting rid of the filibuster to pass H.R. 1 … but then we forget to do anything about the structural problem of the judiciary that has been utterly ‘Trumpified’ over the years, then these judges will just overturn all these proposals and gut the new Voting Rights Act the way they gutted the original Voting Rights Act.
Fiddler asked about Demand Justice’s broader strategy for ensuring judicial reforms. Some of the most important issues, Fallon said, are expanding the Supreme Court by four seats, term limits for justices, and adding seats in the lower courts, which he said is of particular (and often overlooked) importance:
The Supreme Court only hears about 80 cases a year, so the last word in most of these very important matters are rendered in lower courts, in district/appeals courts. And I’ll give you an example of the significance they have: a lot of the executive orders that Biden has already signed and will continue to sign are being challenged by right-wing foundations and nonprofit litigation factories that just make it their business to try to stop progress by suing in the courts. And they go and they cherrypick the venue where they file these lawsuits. So the eviction moratorium during COVID that the Biden administration sought to extend—a right-wing organization went to court, found a Trump judge, and got a hold put on that eviction moratorium … On every policy that matters to progressives, Biden’s good intentions are going to directly run into conflict with Trump judges who view their job as to sort of prolong Trump’s agenda well into the Biden administration.
While a victory on expanding the courts is complicated and far from guaranteed, Fallon said, “If we do something, there’s nothing we could lose from that, but if we do nothing, there’s a lot to lose.”
Next, Shuff joined the show to talk about what’s at stake with the fight for D.C. statehood, a battle that has been going on for many years and through many different sessions of Congress. A new bill is currently circulating in Congress to obtain statehood for D.C.
In this age where bipartisanship is all but an afterthought and some Democratic senators are uncommitted, Moulitsas wondered, “Could D.C. statehood pass in a 50-50 Senate as it currently exists?”
Shuff feels strongly that statehood is an issue of fairness and representation and that great momentum for D.C.’s long overdue statehood is building:
It’s a ‘power grab’ for the people of D.C. It is 700,000 people who … [need to be] fully and equally represented in Congress. Senator Schumer has said it’s a priority, it was in the Democratic Party platform, it has been supported repeatedly by President Biden … So, all indications are that we’re in the strongest moment to get statehood that we’ve seen in decades.
Moulitsas brought up the risks that lack of statehood pose to the safety of D.C. residents as well, reminding viewers that during the insurrection in January, Nancy Pelosi had to call the governors of Maryland and Virginia to send National Guard troops to protect members of Congress and D.C. residents.
Some have suggested that D.C. could be reabsorbed into Maryland, the state from which it was originally carved. Shuff referred to this retrocession of D.C. to Maryland as “the marriage no one wants,” as neither party is actually interested in this proposal. He noted that rather than reducing who counts and can have representation, American progress has always looked toward becoming more inclusive, and that is why D.C. does not need to be retrocessed. The founders of this country gave only straight, white, land-owning men the right to vote and since then, Shuff said, “we have always grown the pot without asking people to give up who they are.”
Representation is particularly important for D.C., a city whose population is made up by a majority of people of color, Shuff said, and being absorbed into another state would prevent D.C. residents from making their voices heard: “[Retrocession implies that] in order to get what you want, you have to give up who you are as Washingtonians [because Maryland originally gave us the land] … that’s like going back to a house you sold and sitting on the porch because you like their lemonade.”
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