Rachel Maddow points out the way the filibuster rule has been abused and how it looks like some Democrats are finally looking at putting an end to it. Howard Dean weighs in on whether the filibuster still has some merit and whether they should push to get rid of it or not. I agree with Dean that the Democrats need to start playing hardball. It worked with the Republicans finally letting a large number of President Obama's nominees get through when he threatened recess appointments if the Republicans continued to obstruct. Obama ‘wins showdown’ with Republicans as the Senate confirms 27 of his high-level nominees. I'd like to see more of this since the bullies obviously respond to nothing but being bullied back.
Maddow: In the spring of 2005 Senate Republicans led by then Majority Leader Bill Frist, started talking about something called the nuclear option. The nuclear option was a put up or shut up ultimatum to Senate Democrats. Allow up or down votes on President Bush’s judicial nominees or else. Or else Republicans would kill the filibuster, or get rid of it. Well now the Republicans never really had to go nuclear because Democrats were very afraid of this threat. Some of them went into I’m afraid deal making mode at the time. Fourteen Senators, seven Republicans and seven Democrats then stuck a deal to allow President Bush’s judicial nominees to go forward.
Crisis averted. The filibuster lived. Bush got his judges and Democrats kept the filibuster alive, although they promised not to use it very much. Great deal right? When Republicans threatened to go nuclear on Democrats back then it’s because Democrats they said were abusing the filibuster. Here’s what that looked like in that Congress. Fifty four filibusters when Democrats were in the minority at that time. Then when the Republicans became the minority in 2007…boing… one hundred and twelve filibusters.
Republicans now have a defacto standing filibuster on practically everything. They’ve made so that passing anything in the Senate requires sixty votes, a super majority every time. This situation has never existed before. This was not the situation in any previous Congress ever. Really. I know the beltway reporting makes it seem like sixty is normal. This is the way it’s always been. Democrats did it too when they were in the minority.
It is not true. This really has never happened before in the history of the U.S. Senate. When Republicans were mad about Democratic filibusters in 2005 and they threatened to kill the filibuster all together, Democrats were doing nothing anywhere near as extreme as what is being done now.
And so finally after starting to figure out that this is a problem, it’s the Democrats now who are coming around to a nuclear state of mind.