Sen. McConnell spokesman: "I'm looking forward to President Rubio stacking the courts."— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) November 21, 2013
You know the news, I'm sure:
The Senate voted on Thursday to eliminate the use of the filibuster against most presidential nominees, a move that will break the Republican blockade of President Obama's picks to cabinet posts and the federal judiciary....Yeah, yeah, yeah -- so we might have a Republican president and Senate in 2017 (I agree that that's possible), and if so, Democrats will have taken a big arrow out of their own quiver.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, denounced Democrats for trying to "break the rules to change the rules" ...
"You think this is in the best interest of the United States Senate and the American people?" Mr. McConnell asked, sounding incredulous. "I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you’ll regret this. And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think."
But especially with regard to judges, the pool from which Republican presidents draw appointees is so extreme already that Democratic filibusters have been only a minor impediment to the GOP's efforts to drag the courts to the right. Appointees regarded as well within the pale by the Establishment are pretty damn far to the right. So what do Democrats risk losing? What's the worst-case scenario? We get Judge Ann Coulter rather than Judge Janice Rogers Brown?
If I see any downside to this, it's that the mainstream press will declare that this establishment of majority rule as a Senate principle for appointees is equivalent to another attempted shutdown or moment of default brinkmanship next January and February -- the press will act as if the two \ are equally childish and lamentable. And the public may just stupidly nod and agree.
But mainstream journalists always find something Democrats are doing that allegedly cancels out any genuinely extreme thing Republicans are doing -- if it wasn't this, it would be some Democrat's offhand comment, or maybe Obama not arranging a golf date with John Boehner.
And as for Mitch McConnell's direst threat -- to end the filibuster on everything in response to this -- I'm not worried. It's been suggested that he'd do it if Republicans win the Senate in 2014. Really? With Obama still president, just so Republicans can vote to repeal Obamacare and pass a lot of other bills the president will simply veto? And would McConnell really change the rules this way with a 2016 election coming up that's likely to have heavy Democratic turnout and a good possibility of the Senate flipping back to the Democrats? Doubt it.
So thank you, Harry Reid and colleagues, for dropping this nuclear bomb.
AND: If we're talking about McConnell eliminating the filibuster altogether in 2017 as payback if he has a majority and a Republican president and House, why do we think he'd need the pretext of this partial elimination of the filibuster by Democrats? Isn't it likely that he would have eliminated the filibuster no matter what?
The template for the modern GOP is what happened in Wisconsin after the 2010 elections: a blitzkrieg of punitive, revanchist legislation using every parliamentary tool at the new GOP majority's disposal. In the U.S. Senate, that would have included the gutting of the filibuster. It's always been likely if they get total control. This doesn't make it any more likely.