I watched in amazement on Monday night, as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes put in perspective what the repercussions will be if Republicans regain control of the U.S. Senate and thus completely control the legislative branch of government.
The reason I was so amazed is that Hayes is the first one I have seen who has gone into any detail about what a GOP victory today, in this mid-term election, would mean. Why haven’t Democrats made the case so comprehensively? Why haven’t they told people, as Hayes did, that “it is a dangerous delusion” to believe “it doesn’t really matter what happens” in today’s election? Beats me. I wish I knew. Maybe it is just too hard to wedge into 30-second commercials the danger involved.
In any case, here is most of the transcript of Hayes’ informational and, to be honest, depressing segment last night:
I get it, after watching the least productive Congress in U.S. history, it is in fact hard to get invested in the idea that four or five Senate seats changing parties will make that much of a difference. So I think a lot of people, understandably, have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter what happens tomorrow. The next two years will be the same, more or less, no matter what.
And it is tempting to believe that. But it is not true. In fact, it is a dangerous delusion, because which party controls the United States Senate matters a lot.
It is pretty grim to talk about, but four of the nine Supreme Court justices…are over the age of 75. So there is a very real, actuarial possibility of a vacancy on the court in the next two years and the Senate needs to confirm whoever fills that vacancy, which means that tomorrow, the Supreme Court, one third of the branches of the U.S. government, is on the ballot.
And not just, I should add, the Supreme Court in some abstract sense—that building there with the columns and the justices firing questions during oral arguments. There are specific, big cases we already know about right now that are very likely headed to that building you see there on your screen.
Like the case, for instance, that threatens to destroy the new ObamaCare insurance exchanges in 36 states. Or the case that will decide whether Texas can potentially disenfranchise some 600,000 voters, many of them black and Latino, under the state’s new voter ID law. Or the biggest case on abortion rights, frankly, since Rowe v. Wade was decided. Which could determine whether it’s okay for states to regulate abortion clinics almost completely out of existence and still pass constitutional muster, as Texas has just done, passing a law that shuddered 80% of its clinics.
So, health reform for millions of people in 36 states, voting rights not just in Texas but across the South and throughout the country, abortion rights not just in Texas but throughout the country, they’re headed to that court and that court is on the ballot tomorrow, which means all of those are very much on the ballot tomorrow.
Also up for a vote tomorrow, the way the government spends money, which sounds banal or whatever, but is more important than you might think. The real victory of the 2010 Tea Party wave, let us recall, the wave that was brought into power during the last midterms when conservatives came out to vote far great than liberals and progressives, the greatest victory of that wave election was taking a hatchet to that part of the government that happens to spend money on lots of public goods and a lot of people who don’t have much power.
Congress—the Congress produced by that election—Congress cut $8.7 billion from the food stamps budget. The National Institutes of Health alone lost $1.71 billion during sequestration, a process put into play in 2011 after those conservatives were elected. Those cuts, they were big and they were real. And they might be just the start. Because if Republicans control the Senate, they will have two key pieces of leverage the next time they want to go after programs they don’t like and cut them.
One, they will be able to pass spending bills with a simple majority through a process known as reconciliation. And that is important because it means they don’t have to meet the 60-vote filibuster threshold. They just need a simple majority. And, number two, they will be able to control the amendment process, which sounds obscure and boring but is actually the most powerful thing you can do in the United States Senate, because they can add whatever they please to a spending bill and send it right to the president’s desk.
And the president will then be presented with a choice, veto a bill chock-full of GOP amendments and thereby risk a big, messy government shutdown that hurts millions of people—many of the people that are his supporters and constituents—or sign a bill chock-full of GOP amendments and potentially do great damage to his own agenda and lots of struggling Americans who are counting on him.
And this isn’t just my pet theory of how this will play out. Mitch McConnell made an explicit promise to do exactly, precisely what I`m describing, if Republicans do in fact get a Senate majority tomorrow, telling Politico over the summer, Obama “needs to be challenged and the best way to do that is threw a funding process. He would have to make a decision on a given bill whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes.” A “good example,” McConnell said, is adding restrictions to regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Let me be clear for a second. The regulation the EPA is issuing right now for coal-fired power plants is basically the most important thing the government is doing right now, the biggest part of the Obama domestic policy legacy since he was reelected. And those regulations are set to
reduce emissions and more importantly could permanently alter the trajectory of American power generation towards renewables and away from coal and the carbon pollution that is threatening mass catastrophe and all civilized life.
And that, that signature achievement, hangs perilously in the balance. That is very much on the ballot tomorrow. The Republicans have told you it is.