Since the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was handed the keys to the Kingdom of Capitol Hill, he’s been moving and shaking, trying to find ways to get some heaping aid off the Democratic agenda. The party was forced to rely on a budget vote to pass a sizeable COVID bill without Republican support.
They were recently given the go-ahead by the MP to redesign this tactic so that they can pass more laws before reaching the medium-term without Republican interference. With the 50:50 split in the Senate and the small majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats will understand that it will be difficult for them to approve anything this year without Senate Republicans tearing it to pieces with the filibuster.
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Democrats have toyed with eliminating the filibuster to take the hill, but Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has threatened to bring all Senate business to a standstill if they mess with it at all. Additionally, McConnell says any laws that Democrats pass once the filibuster is removed will simply be repealed once Republicans are back in power – and that could be 2022. This means that Schumer has to be careful how he proceeds, otherwise he could blow a chance against issues like a minimum wage increase, weapons reform and the legalization of marijuana.
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Senator Schumer recently announced that he would put in place a comprehensive marijuana legalization plan that would be voted on immediately. The news pissed off cannabis advocates and worried the prospect that the collapse of the U.S. potting ban was finally in sight. But before a cannabis law can be put into practice, Democrats either need a lot of Republican support (which they don’t have) or a way to dodge the filibuster.
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The filibuster is an old Senate rule that requires a majority of 60 votes to answer controversial questions. As a result, Schumer’s long-awaited pot bill is unlikely to get the votes he needs to get into the house. And if it doesn’t get that far, it’s probably a dead problem. Even if the Democrats ended the filibuster to move their agenda forward, it would take the support of the entire Democratic caucus to make that happen. And key Democrats are determined to uphold the rule.
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“I’ve said it before and will say it again to remove any doubt: there is no circumstance under which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” said US Senator Joe Manchin said in an article for the Washington Post. “It is time to end these political games and usher in a new era of bipartisanism in which we find common ground in the important political debates our nation is facing.”
But getting Democrats and Republicans to agree on anything, let alone marijuana, is going to be tough. McConnell’s not about that, and his influence could easily ensure that legalization talks don’t get very far.
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Marijuana advocates keep asking when they’ll see Schumer’s marijuana bill. Although Democrats pretend it will be passed it will be relatively easy, the reason we probably haven’t seen any legislation is presumably because they are still trying to figure out how to keep it alive, though it is introduced. No doubt they will bump into a wall with the GOP filibuster. And a marijuana law can’t be passed as a budget reconciliation.
So far, the Democrats have been hiding their secret fears about their commitment to promoting the marijuana movement. For now, the filibuster’s stability almost ensures that legal marijuana will be a huge failure in 2021.