Next time grow a spine earlier
by David Atkins
Greg Sargent on the impact that Sen. Frank Lautenberg's passing may have on the nuclear option in the Senate:
It’s being privately discussed at the highest levels of the Democratic Party: The passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg has cast doubt on the ability of Senate Democrats to exercise the so-called “nuclear option” and change the Senate rules via a simple majority.A half-witted porcupine could have predicted that Republicans would remain as intransigent in 2013 as they were in 2012. It's not getting better, either.
Here’s what this means: A very plausible scenario being mulled by top Dems is that the prospects for changing the rules may rest on a tie-breaking Senate vote from Vice President (and Senate president) Joe Biden.
It’s simple math. Lautenberg’s passing means Dems now only have 54 votes in the Senate. (His temporary Republican replacement can’t be expected to back rules reform.) Aides who are tracking the vote count tell me that Senator Carl Levin (a leading opponent of the “nuke option” when it was ruled out at the beginning of the year, leading to the watered down bipartisan filibuster reform compromise) is all but certain to oppose any rules change by simple majority. Senators Patrick Leahy and Mark Pryor remain question marks. And Senator Jack Reed is a Maybe.
If Dems lose those four votes, that would bring them down to 50. And, aides note, that would mean Biden’s tie-breaking vote would be required to get back up to the 51 required for a simple Senate majority. That’s an awfully thin margin for error.
Republicans have been given many chances to prove that they can make comity work in the Senate. They have failed every chance they've been given. The time to fix the filibuster was at the beginning of the legislative session, but if there's any chance that Biden can be brought in to make it happen, so be it. It has long been time to act.