Filibuster Reform Is a Question of “When” Not “If”


Megan McArdle thinks the likes of me should think twice about filibuster reform: “[Democrats] risk empowering a Republican Senate majority — if not in 2010 (which I think is very unlikely) then in 2012.”

I really wish people would stop treating this kind of consideration as a knock-down refutation of the case for reform. I really and truly think it would be better to let the Senate vote by majority rules. That’s what I thought in 2005, it’s what I think in 2010, and it’s what I’ll think in 2015.

But anyone who is holding out on reform out of fear of empowering future Republican majorities should consider that for all the reasons Democrats will have the chance to change the rules in January 2011, Republicans will be able to change the rules in 2013 or 2015 or whenever else. The only reason filibustering has been allowed for as long as it has has been because of strong norms against its over-use. But those norms have been eroding for decades. The idea that Senate majorities are going to allow this trend to continue indefinitely is silly. The way this movie goes is that the downward spiral of obstruction continues until some majority gets sick of it and changes the rules. The question is when will the rules change not will they be changed.

Meanwhile, here’s a good one. Harry Reid seems to have the votes to pass an important reform to the school lunch program, but it may not survive efforts to chew up floor time: “Last night, he began the process of finally bringing the bill up for passage in the Senate. Unfortunately, the GOP seems intent on requiring full votes for every intermediate legislative step — and there are many, so each one can take days.”