The Future of the Filibuster

Brad DeLong offers an important point in the filibuster reform discussion:

Note to all: the filibuster as we currently know it is going to fall — it almost fell under Cheney, and only the fact that a few Democratic senators decided that it was worth “preserving” and so knuckled under to Republican policy priorities with which they did not substantively agree has kept it in being.

The Democratic Party has a choice: it can either break the filibuster when it has the majority, or it can let Republicans stall and then let them break the filibuster when they have the majority.

If anything this understates the likelihood of GOP-led filibuster reform the next time there’s a Republican trifecta (2017 seems plausible) since it really took more than “a few” Democratic Senators deciding it was important to save countermajoritarian principles. It seems to me that if just a handful of Democrats had taken my advice and proposed eliminating all filibusters (instead of the goofy conservative proposal to filibuster everything except judicial nominations) then the odds of a left-right pro-majoritarianism coalition emerging would have been quite high. And after the experience of the 110th and 111th Senate, I think more people on the progressive side appreciate the problems with the current system than did back in the 109th, and some folks will still remember that 8–10 years from now.


What’s more, the more I think about it something like the eliminate the filibuster with 51 votes in January move sounds too ballsy for process-obsessed Democrats, but something the GOP will realize you can easily get away with. If Senators embarked on some process reform in one of those January weeks when the papers are filled with cabinet nomination speculation and beat-sweetener profiles, barely anyone would notice the filibuster story.