So, the filibuster. Did Harry Reid do the right thing getting rid of it for judicial and executive branch nominees?
I’d say so. And yet, I think Republicans missed a bet here. I’ve never personally been a fan of the idea that the Senate’s raison d’être is to be the slowest, most deliberative, and most obstructive branch of government. Hell, legislation already has to pass two houses and get signed by a president and be approved by the Supreme Court before it becomes law. Do we really need even more obstacles in the way of routine legislating?
Still, I’ll concede that my own feelings aside, the Senate really was designed with just that in mind. It wasn’t designed to be an automatic veto point for minority parties, but it was designed to slow things down and keep the red-hot passions of the mob at bay. So here’s what I wonder: why weren’t Republicans ever willing to negotiate a reform of the filibuster that might have kept it within the spirit of the original founding intent of the Senate?
What I have in mind is a reform that would have allowed the minority party to slow things down, but would have forced them to pay a price when they did it. Because the real problem with the filibuster as it stands now is that it’s basically cost-free. All it takes to start a filibuster is a nod from any member of the Senate, which means that every bill, every judge, every nominee is filibustered. The minority party has the untrammeled power to stop everything, and these days they do.
But what if filibusters came at a cost of some sort? There have been several proposals along these lines, and all of them would have allowed the minority party to obstruct things they truly felt strongly about. But there would have been a limit to how many things could be obstructed, or how long the obstruction could go on, and the majority party could eventually have gotten its way if it felt strongly enough. It would have been ugly, but at least Republicans would have retained some ability to gum up the works.
Instead, by refusing to compromise in any way, they’ve lost everything. Just as they lost everything on health care by refusing to engage with Democrats on the Affordable Care Act. Just as they lost everything on the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. Just as they lost the 2012 election.
Hard-nosed obstinacy plays well with the base, but it’s not a winning strategy in the end. Republicans never seem to learn that lesson.