Early Nose-Counting On Filibuster Reform

WaPo’s Greg Sargent reports today that Harry Reid won’t have much of a margin of error if he “goes nuclear” next month in order to end or restrict filibusters of confirmations of presidential appointees. He may, in fact, need Joe Biden’s vote to obtain a simple majority, in part because of the loss of the Lautenberg seat.

What’s troubling about that situation is that it represents the nose-counting before the fight actually begins. The fresh threat from Mitch McConnell to go “totally nuclear” in the future if Reid messes with the filibuster could rattle a Democratic senator or two. And as the confrontation approaches, McConnell will undoubtedly be looking for a deal much like the one he cut with Reid that largely neutered filibuster reform at the beginning of the session. Will he have some silent partners in the Democratic cloakroom?

It would be helpful, of course, if Reid and company could generate some real public interest in this issue, which it unquestionably merits. If this whole thing is worked out behind closed doors with minimum public fuss, the very large stakes involved could be won or lost without a great deal of accountability. I’d hate to see filibuster reform consigned to the killing floor without a public debate.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.