Moments of Opportunity

I spoke to Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico this morning about his drive for reform of the Senate rules. If you’re coming to Netroots Nation this year, so is Senator Udall and he’s on a panel also featuring Yours Truly on this subject. His focus, at the moment, is on what you might call a meta-rule, namely that the Senate can and should adopt new rules at the beginning of the term by majority vote rather than the 67 votes it would take to change the rules mid-session. He talks here about his inspiration for the idea:

The concern I have is that the political timing is wrong. Back in late 2008, I wrote a piece for The Atlantic about the evils of the filibuster, and had more progressive institutions been on the bandwagon back then I think it’s quite easy to imagine the Senate exercising Udall’s “constitutional option” amidst the hope and enthusiasm associated with the beginning of the Obama administration. If that had happened, more progressive bills could have passed (liberals like it!), vulnerable members could have ducked more tough votes (moderates like it!), and the economy would be in better shape (incumbents like it!), but of course it didn’t happen. Now 18 months later, Washington is older and wiser on these matters. But will it really be politically feasible to adopt a more sensible ruleset with a less-popular President Obama and a diminished majority in the Senate?