Cannabis advocates were delighted to hear that Senate minority leader Charles Schumer would replace Mitch McConnell as majority leader on Wednesday. The recent Democratic victory in the Georgia drains bring the party under control of the hill.
Proponents believe this takeover means that the marijuana debate in Congress will finally get a fair shot. After all, McConnell has stood in the way of any pot-related action to cross his path. But now that Schumer, a supporter of the cannabis cause, is running the show, any cannabis legislation is a safe bet. Right?
In a perfect world, democratic scrutiny in both the US House of Representatives and the Senate, not to mention a Democratic president, would mean the party could advance its agenda with no Republican problems. But they have such a slim majority (the Senate is actually in a 50:50 split, with Vice President Kamala Harris being the tiebreaker) that they have to work with Republicans to achieve something – even marijuana reform. McConnell and Schumer now have to come to terms with the inner workings of the Senate business.
So far, these negotiations have stagnated.
The two Senate presidents met briefly on Tuesday to discuss the division of power, but nothing material emerged. Schumer told Reporters said the two discussed “a number of issues” but failed to reach an agreement.
McConnell refuses to bow because he fully understands that there is still a way for him to control the Senate as a minority leader – through the legislative filibuster. This is a political piece that has involved lengthy speeches and debates in the past to thwart majority support. It requires controversial bills, like anything related to marijuana legalization, to get a 60 majority to end a discussion. It means trouble for the dams.
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Despite the Democrats pushing to eliminate the filibuster, McConnell is committed to keeping him okay. According to Fix Our SenateThis is because he knows it is “the best weapon he has” to keep Democrats from having real power. Maintaining this procedural tool means that anything Biden seeks to accomplish, including decriminalizing marijuana, could be sabotaged. It also means any House-approved laws related to marijuana could be blocked in the Senate and pronounced dead.
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McConnell pressures Schumer to make an upfront arrangement to keep the filibuster in the game. While the Kentucky Republican did nothing but show his authority on the hill during his reign of terror as a majority leader, he now wants the two parties to unite. “An equally divided Senate means that we have to work together to achieve something, and the spirit of true bipartisan compromise is only possible when each side realizes that they have to come to the table together.” he wrote in a recently published memo.
RELATED: Will Senator Mitch McConnell Be a Problem for Marijuana in 2021?
Unfortunately, the Democrats don’t have the votes to crush the filibuster. You would need every member to climb aboard, but not all of them are sold. Some Dems have even vowed to vote against it. If Schumer does not agree to keep the filibuster, it could delay the appointment of crucial committees and essentially leave the Senate in political purgatory until the two leaders can work something out.
All in all, the filibuster will likely stay in the books. And that will inevitably mean marijuana to cover another bumpy road for the next several years.