The Death of the Senate: A New Administration, the Same Deterioration

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As the first 100 days of the Trump presidency passes, we can see that much has changed from the Obama era.

Environmental regulation rollbacks, new tariffs, decentralization of education policy, and immigration crackdown are all among the shifts in governance that we’ve witnessed in the recent months.

So far, the Trump era has been a mixed bag for libertarians, classical liberals, and other members of the liberty community. However there is one constant that continues regardless of changing administrations, something that should worry all those who wish to limit the powers of the federal government – the continual deterioration and marginalization of the United States Senate.

So far, since president Trump took the executive reins of power; two key tests have faced the former reality star regarding his constitutional credentials: the conformation of Neil Gorsuch, and the Syrian missile strikes. Both are cases for which he, as well as most senators, receive failing marks.

The first of these cases, the conformation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, was bittersweet.

The Supreme Court gained an intellectual natural law conservative who will help shore up the court as a bulwark against government expansionism for decades to come.

Yet, said victory came at the cost of hollowing out another institution, the United States Senate.

In order to have Gorsuch confirmed, Republicans had to implement the nuclear option (reducing the votes needed to a simple 51 vote majority) to bypass opposition stemming from Democrats, that via filibuster, blocked the 60 votes needed for conformation.

Sadly Trump and the Senate leadership were both to blame for the demise of last remnant of filibuster for federal nominations, the nomination of Supreme Court justices.

Yet Republicans alone cannot be blamed, in 2013, Harry Reid (then Democrat majority leader) ended the filibuster of all other federal nominees.

In the short term these changes gave both the parties (and large factions of the American public) the instant gratification they desired; but in the long run the damage is much greater, and two fold.

Firstly, with only a simple majority needed for important federal appointees no bipartisanship will ever be required; this will allow future senate sessions to confirm nominees that are radically left-wing and right-wing alike. Such occurrences can only further lead to the polarization of the American public, and the continued distortion of the constitution will only increase as more radical and ideological judges will ever more increasingly interpret it to suit their given agendas.

Secondly, this is the death of the filibuster. The filibuster of federal nominees in the Senate has a history stemming back to the mid-nineteenth century. It has been a hallmark of the meaning of the senate, which is to be a more deliberative, collaborative, and slower body than the House of Representatives.

Now that this check is gone, how long will it be until we see the filibuster thrown out for legislation as well?

In this hyper-partisan era, where frustration runs high, it likely won’t be long; this would be an end to one of the great checks and balances of our federal government.

As if this were not already enough to be troubled over, sadly there is still more.

The Senate has, ever increasingly, surrendered its power to either approve of or deny the president the power to use military intervention against foreign governments (its power to declare war).

Senate leadership, both Democrat and Republican, overwhelmingly approved of the President launching missile strikes on a Syrian airbase without congressional approval.

Only a few brave senators, including strange bedfellows Rand Paul and Elizabeth Warren, publicly denounced President Trump for not first seeking congressional approval.

In their defense of the Constitution they went against a majority of their colleagues and the overwhelming public support for the strikes.

Sadly, these few senators seem to be the only ones who care more about preserving the Senate’s constitutional role rather than pleasing the president and public alike.

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