Trump Flip-Flops on the Filibuster

The 45th president is not hobbled by any need for consistency. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

We have some good news for unity-craving Republicans: Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are now on the same page with respect to one of the more important topics of the day. During a new podcast interview, the former president said “it will be catastrophic for the Republican Party” if Democrats ended the filibuster, and he seemed to back McConnell’s efforts to prevent that from happening.

This is an interesting, if not terribly surprising, development for the most erratic president since Andrew Johnson. Trump started attacking the filibuster fairly early in his administration, commenting in an April 2017 Fox News interview:

[T]he filibuster concept is not a good concept to start off with, but if you’re going to filibuster, let somebody stand up for 20 hours and talk and do what they have to do, or even if they are reading comic books to everybody, let them do it but honestly, the whole with so many bad concepts in our rules, and it’s forcing bad decisions.

Note that at this stage, Trump appeared to share Joe Biden’s recently expressed misgivings about the filibuster creating a de facto 60-vote requirement for passing legislation without the obstructors even being required to take control of the floor and “talk.”

By summer 2017, Trump was more strident about the filibuster, and he even seemed to be under the mistaken impression that it was responsible for the GOP’s inability to get a majority to support its Obamacare-repeal legislation through the Senate (it only required 50 votes plus Mike Pence’s tiebreaker under budget-reconciliation rules): “Republican Senate must get rid of 60 vote NOW! It is killing the R Party, allows 8 Dems to control country. 200 Bills sit in Senate. A JOKE!” he tweeted. A month or so later, he reiterated his complaint: “If Republican Senate doesn’t get rid of the Filibuster Rule & go to a simple majority, which the Dems would do, they are just wasting time!”

Trump attacked the filibuster again in 2018. He probably didn’t bother to repeat the attacks in 2019 and 2020 because Democratic control of the House made the Senate, and its rules, less relevant to his plans (other than in the impeachment arena).

But now it seems the same dilatory tactic that was “killing the R Party” in 2017 is the key to its survival now. Borrowing one of the 45th president’s favorite phrases, that’s sad.

Trump Flip-Flops on the Filibuster