Senate Republicans found a new political football, and Tennessee’s Senators are kicking it.

Jansen Hammock, Contributor

Both Sen. Bill Hagerty and Sen. Marsha Blackburn are joining forces with other Senate Republicans to introduce the No Hearing, No Vote Act. This Act would prevent Senate Democrats from using reconciliation, a process that bypasses the usual 60 vote threshold and cannot be filibustered. This makes passing bills through the Senate easier by only requiring a simple majority vote. However, the No Hearing, No Vote Act would prevent the use of this process without having full hearings beforehand.

This bill would jeopardize the two-track plan Democrats have pursued for infrastructure, as well as an attempt to prevent any easy attempts at reconciliation in the near future. By requiring hearings, this would make the reconciliation process lengthier for Democrats and provide more opportunities for reconciliation bills to fall apart.

It’s unlikely that this bill goes far in the Senate since it didn’t when Democrats tried to pass the same bill in 2017. However, there may be an electoral motivation behind this move from Senate Republicans, as they may improve their chances at taking back the Senate and House if Democrats’ strategy becomes unpopular. Specifically, Republicans may try to use this bill to launch an attack on the Democrats’ inability to pass bills with a full 60 votes. Therefore, Senate Republicans may want to make Democrats’ major legislation unfavorable to the voters before the 2022 midterm elections. By calling the use of reconciliation into question Senate Republicans could make it harder for Democrats to legislate with such a thin majority, or force them to defend the bills passed through reconciliation in the midterm elections.

Republicans may want to highlight discord between the Democrats by forcing a showdown on the filibuster. By complicating the use of reconciliation, Democrats may be forced to find a new way to pass their bills without getting the full 60 votes. This would also pit Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema against their colleagues in the future in passing other parts of Biden’s agenda. 

The filibuster debate may make things difficult for both Senators, but especially Sinema who received a threat of no confidence from the Arizona Democratic Party if she refuses to vote against the filibuster in the future, and a PAC has already been started to primary her in 2026. Sowing disarray could keep Arizona competitive down the line, and make things harder for fellow Arizona Senator Mark Kelly in his re-election bid this cycle. Ultimately, a fractured Democratic Party may increase the odds of Republicans taking back the Senate in 2022. 

However, it is not yet clear whether Senate Republicans’ decision to introduce this bill will come back to haunt them. Many Republicans are eager for 2022, predicting that they will take back the majority; but keeping the No Hearing, No Vote bill relevant in the current Congress makes it more likely Democrats bring the bill back in the next session of Congress. Also, it isn’t likely that reconciliation can be weaponized in the midterm election if the bills passed have high public approval. For example, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is promoting a poll showing the current Build Back Better reconciliation bill has 66% approval from the public. Therefore, it may be difficult to make this process unpopular amongst voters if the bills passed by Democrats receive high favorability from the public. 

Given that this is Blackburn and Hagerty’s first terms in the Senate, we will have to wait to see how they respond if Republicans take back the majority and Democrats re-introduce the No Hearing, No Vote bill. One thing we can know for certain is that both parties will likely continue to challenge the other’s use of reconciliation.

Photo Credit: United States Senate, Public Domain