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Nine Votes

When contemplating the way the Employee Free Choice Act managed to fail yesterday in the Senate despite having 51 votes in its favor, it’s worth going back to the “Gang of 14” compromise moment. The anti-EFCA filibuster doesn’t really matter this year because Bush would have filibustered it anyway. It is, however, reasonably probably that in 2009 we’ll have a Democratic president. It’s not, however, even remotely likely that Democrats are going to gain nine Senate seats.

This sort of thing is why I really wish Democrats hadn’t made that compromise over judicial nominations. Instead, let the GOP unleash the “nuclear option” and bar filibusters for judicial nominees. Then it would have been easy enough for Democrats to just nuke back once they controlled the Senate. At the end of the day, the filibuster is a very bad thing for progressive politics notwithstanding its utility during the 2003–2006 period. Labor law reform is absolutely vital to the long-run future of American liberalism (and, indeed, America) but very unlikely to happen as long as the filibuster lives. And think about trying to get 60 votes for health care reform.

Of course, even with the compromise in place there’s nothing but timidity (and, I suppose, consistency) stopping Democrats from unleashing a nuclear option of their own.

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