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Why nuking the filibuster is bad governance

If we are to truly unite and move towards a cohesive nation, the filibuster is vital.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the chamber after criticizing Democrats for wanting to change the filibuster rule, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 16, 2021.
J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

The U.S. Senate was established by the Founding Fathers as the great deliberative body where members could form collegial relationships and reach across the aisle to pass legislation for the wider benefit of the country. Times have changed.

The recent push to eliminate the filibuster is yet another attack on the spirit of unity and an attempt to fundamentally transform America into the image of one extreme of the political spectrum. This attempt is fraught with unintended consequences. Partisans currently in control who seek an end to the filibuster to push their proverbial wishlist will sooner or later realize that “what goes around comes around,” and our nation suffers as a result. Consensus-building is a worthy endeavor, however hard it may be to get senators from the opposing party to support legislative efforts. The nation cannot afford to abandon the norms of compromise and the goal of unity.

The filibuster is a keystone to congressional balancing and keeps a check on power and safeguards minority views. Seeking to “fix” Congress by tearing down the very safeguards that stabilize the institution is foolhardy, at best. If senators eliminate the filibuster, we can expect a torrent of bad legislation, inherently bad because it will lack bipartisan consensus. George Washington reputedly remarked to Thomas Jefferson that the Senate‘s role in lawmaking was to “cool” House passed legislation so the passions of the majority would not burn up the interests of the minority.

If we are to heal wounds, truly unite and move towards a cohesive nation, the filibuster is vital to protecting both minority and majority concerns, whichever party happens to occupy those roles at any given time. Despite the partisan desire for quick political wins to satisfy immediate concerns, long-term consequences to this fundamental change will harm both parties as the electoral pendulum swings from left to right and back again. In fact, overreach often ensures this swing will be wider and more rapid.

Politics aside, Utahns and Americans at large should demand this legislative rule remain in place to protect their families’ well-being and prosperity. The end of the filibuster will hurt the economy now and in the future. Why? Uncertainty. If this precedent is overturned now, it will become easier to bypass in the future. The emerging economic recovery could be short-circuited without the stabilizing influence of the filibuster. Businesses would be forced to reconsider hiring new employees and jobs will be lost or incomes shrunk if the government dramatically increases the cost of doing business.

What will happen to markets when corporate tax rates increase? When a host of new regulations burden small businesses struggling to recover from the pandemic? When national debt increases 33% in just over a year? What happens when interest rates break free and the Fed’s debt monetization can no longer control the long bond? Wide swings in politics bring wild swings to job growth and markets. Each of these scenarios creates uncertainty and economic volatility.

The pandemic unveiled the thin line between order and chaos — how easily stability can break down when rapid uncertainty is injected into our economic and governmental systems. If employers must face a constant sway in political agendas, built on the ashes of a nuked filibuster, our fragile economic recovery risks being derailed.

For some, politics is a game of scoring points, but it should be about building relationships that underpin consensus. Many Americans were heartened when President Joe Biden declared in his inaugural address that unity must be our path forward and the guiding light to govern. The fruition of those words will be found in part by pursuing compromise rather than a partisan push that will destroy not just the filibuster, but the president’s own stated governing ethos.

Derek Miller is the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.