Friday, November 22, 2013

MAD was an illusion

The reason it was called "the nuclear option" is because people believed that if the majority party took away the minority's ability to filibuster, the minority would retaliate using every method it had to gum up the works and it would become impossible for the Senate to get anything done. It's "nuclear" not in the sense of physics, but because it is the weapon that should not be used without triggering armageddon. Mutually assured destruction assured that it would never be used.

The reason I and others have been hoping that Harry Reid got rid of the filibuster is because the Republicans have already gummed up the works of the Senate. The Republicans were already doing just about everything that they could do as a minority party to stop the Democrats from passing anything. There wasn't any reason to fear a retaliatory nuclear strike because that trigger had already been pulled by the Republicans. They really didn't have anything more that they could do to mess things up. Thus, ending the filibuster would actually make it easier not harder for the Senate to get stuff done by removing the main obstacle to getting nominees confirmed.

Nevertheless, the GOP kept up the threat right up to the end of yesterday's vote to end the filibuster for most nominees. John McCain predicted that Democrats "would pay a heavy, heavy price" if they got rid of the filibuster.

So now that it has happened, what is that price? There doesn't seem to be any. Mitch McConnell said that the Republican response would "come at the ballot box." In other words, they don't have any means to retaliate before next year's election. (And Mitch is delusional if he thinks the average vote cares at all about the intricacies of Senate procedure). So the "nuclear option" was totally worth it. Senate Democrats should have done this a while ago.