Going Nuclear over the Nuke Deal

There’s a new bit of unhelpful advice Mitch McConnell is getting from House conservatives, per this story from The Hill‘s Julian Hattem:

Multiple House Republicans want Senate leaders to “go nuclear” over the Obama administration’s deal with Iran now that Democrats have stymied efforts to derail the accord by conventional means.

A small but growing number of GOP lawmakers say that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should invoke the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules and prevent a filibuster on a resolution to kill the deal.

Their angst is intensified by their belief that Democrats will likely be able to block legislation withholding federal funds from Planned Parenthood, a standoff that increases the chances of a government shutdown.
Less than two years after Republicans railed against Democrats for changing the rules to prevent filibusters on most presidential nominees, McConnell has ruled out using the nuclear strategy.

But the call puts more pressure on the majority leader and illustrates Republicans’ growing frustration with their inability to score significant victories in Congress, even while controlling both chambers.

Now we have to assume the people whining at ol’ Mitch about this are aware there’s this thing called a presidential veto that will absolutely with zero uncertainty be used to thwart their will on both the Iran deal and Planned Parenthood. I mean, they may not know the difference between Sunnis and Shi’a or that snowfall doesn’t refute global climate change. But they probably know about vetoes. So they’re asking McConnell to make a pretty big strategic change of course over a gesture. Or maybe they’re not: some of these birds seem to think Senate Republicans can go “nuclear” over one bill without changing the rules:

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) wrote a letter to McConnell last week calling for a change in rules for the Iran bill. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-
Texas) — chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee — is currently circulating a letter among fellow lawmakers with a similar call.

“Some pieces of legislation, like the Iran nuclear deal, are simply so consequential that they demand revisions to the Senate’s procedures,” Smith wrote in the draft letter.

Maybe they think the Senate should become like the House and the “rule” for consideration of legislation is determined on a case-by-case basis. Or maybe they’re just incapable of making a coherent argument.

Us filibuster-haters would be fine if McConnell threw up his hands and went nuclear on everything on the theory that Republicans will win the 2016 election if Obama has to veto every element of their agenda. If Republicans really think they can pose as the moderate, constructive party these days–just trying to provide some good government for the country in the face of obstruction from the radical in the White House–let ’em try it.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.