Will Chuck Hagel give us filibuster reform

For a while there, it seemed like there was real momentum for some serious filibuster reform.  Then it seemed like it was not going to happen.  Now that Republicans are threatening to filibuster Obama’s entirely reasonable nominees for Treasury and Defense, this give a lot of momentum back to filibuster reformers, says Weigel:

[Republican Senator Jeff] Sessions’ outrage was manna to an unexpected group of people: Democrats. For months, a group of freshman Democratic senators have been trying to nail down 51 votes to reform the filibuster. On Jan. 22, when the Senate votes on this congressional session’s rulebook, they’ll need to keep that group together. Every time a Republican threatens an Obama nominee, their job gets easier…

The obstruction threats against Lew—and to a much greater extent, against Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel—are making their lives simpler. Reformist senators like Merkley are being helped from the outside by a constellation of liberal groups. The Democracy Initiative, 30-odd organs of the left, has been lobbying Democrats for Senate reform. Fix the Senate Now, a slightly older labor-environmental posse, has spent two years lobbying on nothing but this.

“We’ve been saying since the beginning that that this isn’t your father’s Republican caucus,” says Shane Larson, legislative director for Communication Workers of America, describing this week’s Fix the Senate pitch. “When they immediately oppose Chuck Hagel or Jack Lew, it helps cure people of the notion that maybe you could get to 67 votes for Levin-McCain. No. These guys have come in with a stated goal, and it’s all about stopping the government, period.” …

“It’s only really now dawning on folks what the strategy is,” Merkley said. “If we can turn back the clock to the Susan Rice nomination, a lot people said: ‘Oh, that’s just maneuvering by Republicans to get John Kerry instead and give Scott Brown a chance to come back here.’ With Jack Lew and Chuck Hagel, it becomes so much more apparent that this wasn’t a strategy aimed at one Senate seat.”

The reformers want their fellow Democrats to game that out. Who replaces Hilda Solis at Labor? Do they want a fight over that? What happens if the president gets to pick a new Supreme Court justice? Do Republicans threaten to filibuster her, too? And what about the endless backlog of lower-court judges? Sure, Democrats relied on the filibuster to block plenty of George W. Bush’s nominees. They’d still be able to do that to some future Republican president. They’d just need to stand around and talk, and their willingness to consider that rises every time a Jeff Sessions talks about putting another no-effort hold on a top nominee.

January 22 is D-day for this.  Here’s hoping the Republican keep making the reformers’ job easier.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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