The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. —THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1788

End of filibuster will fundamentally transform American society

End of filibuster will fundamentally transform American society
Adam Schiff in the role of petty tyrant lifting his gavel (Image: YouTube screen grab)

The Green New Deal would cost up to to $93 trillion in its first decade, four times America’s annual economic output. It might reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it would also undermine the reliability of the nation’s power grid and increase people’s electric bills and the cost of household appliances.

In the past, no Congress would ever pass such costly legislation. Not even a Democratic Congress would, because it would be filibustered by the Republican minority. The filibuster gives the minority the ability to block non-fiscal legislation they passionately oppose, with just 40 votes.

But the filibuster is likely to be abolished if the Democrats take control of the Senate and the White House in November. So major elements of the Green New Deal could become law, even if only Democrats support them.

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Former Pres. Barack Obama recently called on Democrats to eliminate the filibuster. Joe Biden recently said that the filibuster should be abolished if it stands in the way of “systemic change.” And even Democrats who once opposed ending the filibuster have now signaled that they will vote to abolish it next year after they take control of the Senate.

The result of ending the filibuster is likely to be legislation that fundamentally transforms American society in key ways. That includes laws that curb freelance work, favor unions, and transfer wealth from businesses to people suing them, such as trial lawyers. Joe Biden has supported California’s AB5, which curbed freelance work and wiped out the livelihoods of thousands of independent contractors. Federal legislation based on California’s anti-freelancing law has already passed the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, although the current Republican-controlled Senate opposes it.

Historically, businesses have been able to hire replacements for strikers. Only the filibuster stopped past Democratic attempts to ban striker replacement. Historically, businesses have been able to prove themselves innocent of pay discrimination, showing that differences in pay have non-discriminatory causes and justifications. The filibuster protected that ability, by defeating the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Historically, very small businesses have been exempt from laws against unintentional and non-racial discrimination. The BE HEARD Act supported by most Democrats would take away that exemption and subject even the tiniest businesses to unlimited punitive damages, liability to lawyers who sue them, the possibility of being sued over years-old allegations, and a definition of “harassment” that requires them to restrict speech even outside the workplace. That law will not pass unless the filibuster is abolished.

To pass these laws would require Democratic control of both the White House and Congress. But that is something pollsters think is quite possible by next year.

What would one-party Democratic rule look like in terms of policies? California might provide hints. It is run by the Democratic Party, which controls both houses of its legislature, and the governor’s mansion. California’s legislature may be more restrained in passing sweeping policy changes than a Democratic Congress would, because state legislatures — unlike the national government — are checked by the prospect of “foot voting.” If a Democratic state adopts extreme anti-business policies, businesses may leave the state to avoid economic harm, just as if a Republican state adopts right-wing social policies, socially-liberal businesses may leave the state. The prospect of such economic loss tempers the extremism of most legislatures.

But California is such a large and populous state that it is hard for many businesses to leave it. As a result, its legislature is more aggressive than many state legislatures. Its legislature is already moving toward paying reparations, which could cost taxpayers “several trillion dollars” if adopted at the national level, according to the New York Times. As Newsweek notes, “Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said he was in favor of paying slavery reparations to African Americans and Native Americans if studies found direct cash payments to be a viable option.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Andy Kessler thinks California will be a model for America should Democrats take over the national government. He thinks that will result in higher taxes and less reliable utilities:

I didn’t have to read the entire Democratic Party platform, let alone the spend-tasmagoric Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force recommendations. Sitting here in California, I’m already living it. If polls are to be believed, left-coast policies are coming to you soon. … California is an early glimpse for the rest of the country of a blackout-rolling, water-deprived, tax-hiking, spending-spiking one-party state longing for its old incandescent glow.

The U.S. may flip to one party rule; California is already there. Democrats have controlled the state Assembly since 1997 and the governorship since 2011. … Single-party rule means single-party rules. We’re No. 1 in the top marginal income tax rate at 13.3%, including for capital gains. That beats New York City. We’re also No. 1 in state sales tax, but only ninth when you include local levies. Still impressive! Everything else follows.

This month Californians have been subjected to rolling blackouts because of the state’s renewable energy mandates — 33% today, 60% by 2030 and 100% by 2045. When the sun goes down, which I understand happens every evening, solar cells are worthless. So California has to buy energy on the spot market — sometimes for 10 times normal prices when it’s hot. So we get rolling blackouts. … Get used to higher bills and resetting your clocks.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


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