Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Question for Conservatives

I'm going to push on my Saturday Salon column, in which I argued that the filibuster can still be saved. I say Republicans could still get a deal which would preserve some possibility of blocking judicial nominations, but give up at least some of the filibuster on legislation. If such a deal is possible, should they go for it?


  1. No to the deals in the column. I don't think they would last.

    The deal I would like is an end to life time justices - either term limits or mandatory retirement at age eighty.

  2. I disagree with you that the filibuster can be saved. Now that the precedent has been set that Senate rules can be changed by majority vote, no filibusters will be tolerated that frustrate the majority party in any significant way. Partisanship has triumphed, and there is no undoing this precedent. The Senate is headed for being run very similarly to the House, with the majority leadership in virtually complete control of the agenda, and no real power for even a large minority party in the Senate. It will make public policy more volatile, and the electoral stakes in Senate races greater. Whenever Democrats win control of House, Senate and Presidency, public policy will lurch sharply to the left, and whenever Republicans win that trifecta, public policy will lurch sharply to the right. That will greatly inconvenience the business community, which will have to hire many lawyers and compliance personnel to keep up with the changes in laws and regulations, but that seems like the political system we will have going forward.

  3. Mercer raises an interesting and I think (very) relavent point.

    First, I think - perhaps just being sentimental - that the filibuster overall was a good thing (and yes I remember being frustrated as hell back in 2003-05 too. But I thought it would have been stupid to blow things up then). The Senate is different and while people love to mock it, it's rules, and the love most Senators have for themselves, I think it truly is the greatest deliberative body in the world. And I think the rules are a good part of the reason for that.

    If - big if - they could get some type of deal - they should go for it. Because 1) it's better than what they have now and 2) the situation will reverse itself again. That is, many GOPers are salivating over 2015 and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Or a President Christie and Justice Cruz (I kid!). But even if that happens, the cards will turn again. There will be another Obama, another Democratic Senate, and another period of time when Republicans are going to stop the "worst" of the "worst".

    Now, as to what Mercer said. Reid and McConnell hate each other. Their relationship now is worse than perhaps that between any majority or minority leader in recent time. They aren't going to make a deal. That's without factoring in McConnell's primary considerations. Although frankly I don't think McConnell is as worried about Bevin as people seem to think.

    There's not a lot of love between other GOPers - even the more moderate ones like Collins - and Democratic leadership. So who does the deal? You mention McCain. But I'm not sure there's much of a relationship left between the parties to get something done. Even a motivated McCain in "maverick" mode might not overcome the distrust and hostility there is now.

    My two cents anyway.

    FWIW and as an aside - I'm still curious as to what the Senate GOP's mindset was. While from a purely partisan perspective I liked their goal WRT the DC circuit, I didn't think it was sustainable. Would Dems have pulled the trigger if they let one through but not the others? Why not try it? The outcome wouldn't have been any worse from their perspective. Maybe they really don't care. Though I find that hard to believe.

  4. Good comments here and on the liberal thread; my view is that the Republicans should look for, and take, a viable deal. Though probably not for nominations, in general a robust filibuster in the senate has more value for the Republicans than the Democrats. This is because the filibuster somewhat preserves individual interests, which in the senate, means state or regional interests.

    The most compelling criticism of big-government liberalism is probably that it is so, well, big. Eliminate the filibuster and that's one more feather in big government's cap.

    Which Republican thought-leaders and reasonably intelligent Republican senators must realize. As a result, its possible that the unprecedented obstruction of this Congress was *just* McConnell taking the next logical obstruction step vs. his predecessors, that he didn't realize Reid would push the button until it was too late, that he now has buyer's remorse.

    I do hope so - I think having a functional filibuster in the senate is better for conservative governance than not having it.

    1. If he didnt know that blocking every single judicial nomination for no reason at all would result in Reid taking action, then McConnell's an effing moron, or he thought that Reid was comatose.

  5. Yes, it looks like some sort of compromise would be the only way to save the filibuster (it's not like Republicans are going to give it back when they win a Senate majority). You'd think that the libertarian instincts of the more thoughtful tea party Senators would make them want to help save it. But partisanship has so completely poisoned the well at this point (I just read the "liberal" comments -- yikes!), that I wouldn't be surprised if there's more interest in getting even than in saving the filibuster.

    It sounds like there's also Democratic interest in ending the filibuster on legislation as well, to pass stuff like... gun control. Even the President suggested that, but for the veto, we'd have new gun control. Killing the filibuster for the sake of gun control would not only make gun control more dead than it was before (if that were possible), but provide fodder for NRA morality plays for many years to come.


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