Friday, February 15, 2013


i must admit, i don't quite get it.

a few months ago, after enduring a four year period of unprecedented levels of filibustering, harry reid vowed to change the rules to either abolish the filibuster or make it a lot harder. with that threat hanging over their heads, republican senators negotiated with reid to avert a weakening of the filibuster rule. what harry ended up with was a minor change in the rules, with a gentlemen's agreement by the GOP that they wouldn't abuse the filibuster.

right away it was clear that the GOP were not gentlemen. right after the deal was struck mitch mcconnell bragged in a fundraising letter that he had averted real filibuster reform. and now senate GOPers are filibustering chuck hagel, which breaks one of the few remaining taboos on using the filibuster by filibustering a cabinet appointee.

so why can't harry reid just declare the filibuster compromise from last month to be dead and pull the trigger for the "nuclear option"? the whole hype about the nuclear option is that if a majority party jumps through the hoops to have the filibuster abolished, the minority party would take revenge by blocking everything and bringing all senate business to a halt. but if the GOP won't even allow a vote on a cabinet appointee, then senate business is already effectively halted. the democrats really have nothing to lose by nuking the filibuster rule.

so why not do it? or why not at least threaten to do it? am i missing something? is there something in the arcane rules of the senate that would prevent the nuclear option at this point. i know the procedural rules are only supposed to be rewritten at the beginning of a congress. but the beauty of the nuclear option is that it exploits the loophole that permits a majority of the senate to declare a rule to be unconstitutional at any time. so that would mean the nuclear option is not only available at the beginning of a term. so why aren't the democrats engaging in a little bit of nuclear blackmail now? i mean, other than the usual bullshit about senate comity and tradition and blah blah blah?