We learned just before Thanksgiving that District 42 Senator Chris McDaniel has kicked the can down the road again in terms of making his future political intentions known. He stated then that essentially he knows, but he’s not saying for “a few more weeks”. Whether or not this was in response Senator Thad Cochran’s brief illness back in October, which many in the McDaniel camp fueled speculation about Cochran stepping down, it now seems like it’s business as usual in DC and that if McDaniel wants to be a US Senator in the next few years, he’s going to have to run against Roger Wicker in a Republican primary to do that. Or he might be waiting on the results of the Alabama Senate race.
But that has given a little more time to look at some of the issues and particularly some changes in issues from his prior stances. For instance, in January 2016, McDaniel was very opposed to removing the filibuster in the US Senate.
QUESTION: “But Chris, I guess the question, somebody had a great question, it was talking about filibuster, and the question was, would you do something? Would you change that? Would you do something to change the Senate rules away from allowing filibuster?”
McDANIEL: “No, no. I think the Senate, and the House, and the central government should be by design a bit dysfunctional. The idea is that as long as government is fighting among its branches and among each other that they can’t cause us harm as individuals. I’ve never been a fan of a very active central government. I’ve never been a fan of a very active federal government. I want the federal government to respect the Constitution, to retreat into its proper roles, and allow the states and the people to govern themselves respectively. I think it’s what the Constitution calls for, anything less is problematic.”
However, under the brighter lights in 2017 as he continues to flirt with a US Senate run, he’s now singing a different tune. In Olive Branch several weeks ago . . .
McDANIEL: “Now there are those of you out there thinking, wait a second, that 60 vote rule is designed to slow down the gears of government. But has it? Here’s the thing: it stopped reform. Consider this for a second. Right now, your government is growing well past its Constitutional boundaries. Right now your government is $20 trillion in debt, adding a trillion more per year it seems every time we turn around. That’s happening right now. It’s on auto-drive. And then Mitch McConnell says we can’t touch the 60 vote requirement because that would be an un-conservative thing to do. If auto-drive is perpetual growth; If auto-drive is perpetual debt; If auto-drive is perpetual loss of civil liberties, then as conservatives, we have to reform the system. We’re not trying to conserve this present system, we’re trying to reform this present system. And we can do it by getting rid of that antiquated 60 vote filibuster requirement.”
So what gives? We’ll, we asked Senator McDaniel and provided him both of the videos shown above. Hours later, he essentially printed his response on his account over at Mississippi/Texas Conservative Daily.
So why the change?
Well, as it turns out, Steve Bannon thinks removing the filibuster is a pretty big deal. Willingness to remove the filibuster requirement is now a Bannon/Breitbart litmus test. So it looks like McDaniel got his bell appropriately rung and fell into line.
BUT, if you read his response closely, McDaniel is trying to split the baby between what it seems he feels down deep in his heart (that the filibuster is a hedge against a highly reactive federal government) and his Dark Master (Bannon). In the piece he parses the language . . .
At a minimum, to help negate the continued abuse of authority, the Senate rules should be changed to allow a majority of senators to repeal a federal law. Repealing unconstitutional legislation like Obamacare must be made easier, not more difficult.
So now he supports filibuster to repeal unconstitutional laws? If laws are unconstitutional, isn’t there already a constitutional remedy (via the Supreme Court)? What about the upcoming tax reform? Will that be able to be undone with a simple Senate majority under McDaniel’s schema? What seems pretty clear is that McDaniel is not willing to go whole hog for completely abandoning the filibuster – else, why the hedge on the language?
No word on whether a timid version of filibuster reform would be acceptable to Bannon/Breitbart. This on top of video coming from the 2016 campaign where he had less than nice things to say about President Trump.
Serving two masters usually means you serve none. But this is definitely a step away from reflexive and principled conservatism.