The Filibuster

THE FILIBUSTER….Kos surveys the recent travails of the GOP and suggests that Democrats should welcome a fight over the filibuster:

Given the tenuous hold on power of the Republican Party, do Republicans really want to ditch the filibuster? Because it won’t be long before Democrats retake the White House and congress. And it sure will be nice to need just 51 votes to pass legislation and confirm nice, solid, liberal judges.

I say test the GOP. If we don’t use the filibuster out of fear they’ll pull the nuclear option, then there is no practical filibuster in existence anyway. Force them to pull the trigger. Let’s see just how confident they are in their “permanent majority” status.

Because the way things are going for Republicans, it won’t be long before Democrats reap the benefits.

This has been what’s kept the filibuster around for the past century, of course: majorities aren’t confident they’ll stay majorities forever and minorities aren’t confident they’ll ever become majorities in the future. For both sides, the value of obstruction when the other side is in power always seems greater than the value of more easily passing legislation when their side is in power.

One think that Kos alludes to but doesn’t quite spell out, though, is the full extent of the danger that Republicans are inviting if they invoke the nuclear option. Their plan is to invoke it solely for judicial nominations, and of course that carries the risk that they wouldn’t be able to filibuster Democratic nominations in the future. But it goes further than that. After all, the nuclear option could just as easily be invoked for ordinary legislation too. Invoking it on Samuel Alito’s behalf could outrage Democrats so badly that if they ever get a majority again, they’d go ahead and get rid of the filibuster for everything. Are Republicans willing to take that chance?

Personally, I would be. One of the drawbacks of the filibuster is that it prevents the American public from understanding what each party really wants to accomplish. Without a filibuster, Republicans would no longer have an excuse for failing to pass the legislation that the Christian right has been demanding for years. So they’d either have to pass it, and lose a huge chunk of middle America, or vote it down, in which case they’d lose their right-wing support. Right now, the political cover provided by the filibuster is probably the only thing keeping them in power.

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