Friendly filibuster reminder
Courtesy of Greg Sargent,who's been making this point for some time:
With the Senate inching towards nuclear Armageddon, and with Republicans screaming that Harry Reid is on the verge of killing the Senate forever, let’s pause to remember three important facts about this debate:
Today, it appears they may not have to:
1) Democrats do not want to change the Senate rules, and only will do so if Republicans leave them no choice.
2) Democrats do not want to change the Senate rules, and only will do so if Republicans leave them no choice.
3) Democrats do not want to change the Senate rules, and only will do so if Republicans leave them no choice.
That Democrats would prefer not to change the rules with the nuclear option — eliminating the filibuster on executive nominations — should be painfully, overwhelmingly obvious to anyone who is paying even cursory attention. Democratic leaders had a chance to enact meaningful reform at the beginning of the year, but they punted because they did not have the votes to change the rules by simple majority, instead agreeing to a watered down version of reform that led inevitably to the current gridlock and impasse.
I can add a glimmer of good news: John McCain is leading a group of GOP Senators in talks with Dems who appear poised to support all the nominations with none of the conditions that McConnell wants. A second Democratic aide tells me that this group of GOP Senators is “basically willing to give us everything we want, with no conditions on future action.” The aide adds that Dems this morning are still trying to determine whether that group’s stance is “legit.”
And those who think the Democrats are just being "political" are cracked:
Remember, if Dems get enough Republican votes to break the GOP filibuster on these nominations, that’s a victory that could put off the need to go nuclear. And right or wrong, this is the outcome Democratic leaders prefer. In other words, it’s still possible for some GOP Senators to do the right thing and avert a nuclear showdown, and that looks like it may happen. Watch today’s votes for the final answer.
The fact that Dems won’t agree to remove the threat of nuclear action later will be widely denounced as proof they are refusing to make concessions to avoid Armageddon. But remember, what is at stake here is whether the Senate is going to function as a nominally democratic body going forward, and whether Republicans will be permitted to continue to render the Upper Chamber a 60-vote body for the explicit purpose of rendering agencies dysfunctional because they are ideological hostile to their missions and perhaps their very existence. As Jonathan Cohn puts it:
Under McConnell’s leadership, the filibuster has become a modern-day instrument of “nullification.” Republicans are using it to undermine laws — like those protecting consumers from banks, or guaranteeing workers the right to organize into unions — that they happen not to like. Thanks in part to a recent court ruling, rendering it effectively impossible for the president to appoint temporary agency heads unilaterally, the Republican effort is succeeding. And it has grave implications for the people who depend on these laws.
The Republicans have nearly brought Senate business to a halt.
Reid and the rest of the leadership want to preserve the filibuster for their own use should they lose the Senate (which is entirely possible.) But they also must be able to function. This gridlock is a function of our extremely polarized political environment, but it's also about power and a willingness to use it. The Republicans have shown repeatedly that they are willing to use their power to obstruct to make political points. Reid and the Democrats have enough power that if they want to fight back they can. But some Republicans are savvy enough to realize that they're cutting off their own noses of the future for the satisfaction of thumbing them at Barack Obama today. It's quite the cat and mouse game.
This should be interesting. But don't get your hopes up that the filibuster for presidential appointees will be eliminated. Senators of both parties would really prefer not to do that.