There’s an article in The Hill by Walter Alarkon about how legislators who actually want climate change legislation to pass are hoping to work through the budget reconciliation process to avoid filibusters, but that some moderate Democrats don’t like that idea. I’m quoted in the piece, but I think I could possibly have been clearly.
The point is that insofar as the concern of Senators like Ben Nelson and Mark Pryor is really about the integrity of Senate procedure, the holy awesomeness of filibustering, and the sanctity of the budget reconciliation process there’s an easy solution—all 59 Democrats could simply promise not to filibuster a climate change bill. They wouldn’t need to vote for it. If Nelson thinks it’s a bad bill, he should vote against it. If Pryor thinks it’s a bad bill, he should vote against it. If Mary Landrieu thinks that her constituents benefit more from a vibrant oil and gas extraction industry than they suffer from catastrophic storms, then she should vote against it. But nothing is forcing those Senators to erect procedural hurdles to prevent the bill from coming to the floor. Then it would be a question of whether or not the bill’s sponsors could get the support of one or two Republicans, bring the bill to the floor, and then pass it with more than 49 but fewer than 60 votes. And to be clear, this is how the filibuster used to work. Tossing procedural monkey-wrenches into the works was an option available to a determined Senate minority, but it wasn’t an option that was exercised as a matter of course. Discretion was applied for the sake of democracy, for the sake of one’s colleagues, and to prevent rabble-rousers like Matt Yglesias from insisting that the option needs to be done away with entirely. It’s only very recently that the understanding has been changed to one in which there’s a formal super-majority requirement for all legislation.
My preference would be to eliminate filibustering altogether. Absent that, I’m for moving as much as possible through the reconciliation process. But Senators who genuinely want to preserve the old ways could best preserve them by actually returning to the old ways; which is to say allowing most legislation to come to the floor even if you intend to vote “no” on the bill.