The Senate Partially-Nukes The Filibuster: Reax

Molly Ball explains why the Senate blew up part of the filibuster today:

Why did Reid pull the trigger? He was tired of making deals with McConnell, only to see their spirit violated by yet more obstruction, allies say. The two reached an informal agreement in January that was supposed to lead to fewer filibuster threats, and another deal in July that paved the way for several executive-branch nominations, including Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Thomas Perez to head the Department of Labor. But none of these bargains affected the overall trend of blockage, and Reid finally had enough.

Patrick Caldwell provides more details:

The real reason Democrats were so eager to confirm Obama’s DC Circuit nominees, and Republicans were so desperate to block them, is that the court’s current conservative majority has repeatedly blocked the president’s agenda. Since most of the federal bureaucracy resides in DC, the DC Circuit is tasked with assessing the constitutionality of federal rules and regulations. Conservatives on the court have neutered much of Dodd-Frank, the post-recession financial reform bill that was meant to keep banks in check. The court also overturned Obama’s ability to appoint staff while Congress is out of town and struck down state environmental rules that would have regulated emissions from other states.

Chait adds that “main reason for this odd, partial clawback of the filibuster is that President Obama has no real legislative agenda that can pass Congress”:

President Obama’s second-term agenda runs not through Congress but through his own administrative agencies. His appointees are writing rules for financial reform, housing policy and — the potentially enormous one — climate emissions. Senate Republicans have tried to stymie this agenda by blocking executive-branch appointments, most recently filibustering the nomination of Mel Watt to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The executive-branch filibuster has become a primary Republican weapon against Obama’s agenda.

Bernstein puts the change in context:

This is a major, major, event. It changes how the nation is governed in a significant way. That said, it’s not as if the Senate has been static since the last time filibuster rules were changed (at least in a major way) almost 40 years ago; most reform is incremental, and one could argue that the rules change today returns nominations closer to how things were done in the 1970s than they have been for the last decade, and especially during the Obama era.

Bouie doesn’t take Republican criticisms seriously:

Republicans will spin this as an unprecedented power grab. Already, Mitch McConnell has warned this will backfire on Democrats when they are in the minority, John McCain has predicted it will put a “chill” on the “entire” chamber, and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter has said that this is “a shame for the Senate” and “scary and dictatorial” for the country. But there’s nothing undemocratic about changing the rules to allow a majority to prevail, or—in this case—robbing a minority of a tool to obstruct without consequence. Indeed, if there’s anything undemocratic, it’s the GOP’s war on President Obama’s ability to make nominations, and to nullify one consequence of the 2012 elections.

Waldman also pushes back against GOP spin:

Iowa senator Chuck Grassley recently threatened, “So if the Democrats are bent on changing the rules, then I say go ahead. There are a lot more Scalias and Thomases that we’d love to put on the bench.” In other words, without the restraint of the filibuster, the next time Republicans have the White House and the Senate, which will happen eventually, they’ll go hog-wild, appointing the most radical conservatives they can find. But there’s one big reason that argument fails:They would have done it anyway. 

You can make an argument that Democrats should have taken the high road and not changed the filibuster rule today. But if you think Republicans wouldn’t have changed the rule to benefit themselves at the first chance they got—no matter what Democrats did—then you haven’t been paying attention.

Weigel considers why this happened now:

Democrats had no interest in cutting a deal; no Republican was emerging to craft one. In one year, even in the best circumstances, they were likely to lose a few Senate seats and fall below the majority needed for a rule change.

Beutler hopes for judicial nominees to get more liberal:

Over the course of several decades, the right has nurtured what essentially amounts to a shadow judiciary, composed of conservative legal scholars who disagree, juridically and ideologically, with the post-New Deal consensus. Republican presidents draw upon this class of activists to fill judicial vacancies, creating a modern antipode to liberal judicial activists of previous decades.

As that movement has matured, and in part because that movement has matured, politics has shrunk the ideological sphere from which Democratic presidents have been able cull liberal jurists. Outspoken progressives, on the periphery of the sphere, have been marginalized. The liberal legal establishment is so scrutinized and subject to so many litmus tests that it has self-selected for timid or self-censoring thinkers, at least in part because it was assumed “liberal activists” would be blocked.

That limiting force is gone now. And the hope is its absence draws a new generation of legal minds out of the shadows and on to the bench sooner than later.

David French throws some cold water:

I look forward to the speedy confirmation of President Cruz’s or President Paul’s nominees, beginning in January 2017.

Kilgore examines the vote count:

The only Democrats who didn’t go along were long-time “nuclear” opponent Carl Levin and two red-state senators of wandering loyalty, Joe Manchin and Mark Pryor. It took a lot of GOP obstruction to create this level of Democratic loyalty.

And Drum thinks “Republicans missed a bet here”:

[B]y refusing to compromise in any way, they’ve lost everything. Just as they lost everything on health care by refusing to engage with Democrats on the Affordable Care Act. Just as they lost everything on the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. Just as they lost the 2012 election.

Hard-nosed obstinacy plays well with the base, but it’s not a winning strategy in the end. Republicans never seem to learn that lesson.