Molly Redden argues that Harry Reid’s filibuster reform proposal “is so modest that you could fairly construe it as a return to the status quo”:
It wouldn’t interfere with the minority’s ability to prevent a piece of legislation from coming to a vote, which members can do today without even staying on the Senate floor. And it doesn’t threaten the talking filibuster, of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” fame, which Senator Rand Paul used to such spectacular effect this spring. … [L]et’s not pretend that Reid’s choice to eliminate the filibuster in one narrow instance would organically, inevitably lead the Senate to eliminate the filibuster altogether. Those are separate choices in which the majority party will perceive separate stakes. As for whether the Senate could come to resemble their malfunctioning counterpart, it would be a false equivalence to make believe that that’s the rules’ fault.
When the Senate is filibustering executive branch nominees not because of their qualifications but because they don’t like what they would be legally authorized to do in office, I think a small rule change is vital. The GOP is becoming not an opposition party, but a wrecking ball, denying the ability of a duly elected president to nominate his own officials – and get them in place – within his own branch of government. Sarah Binder weighs in:
I think it’s important that Reid appears to be narrowly tailoring a rule change to apply only to executive branch nominees (and perhaps only after a nomination has been pending on the executive calendar for a set length of time). When asked by CQ’s intrepid Senate reporter, Niels Lesniewski, about what Reid would do when contested judicial nominations came to the floor in a couple of weeks, Reid refused to expand the scope of conflict to judges: “This is focused very concisely…This is not about judges…This is about presidential executive nominees.” Why was Reid so adamant about limiting the reach of a rule change to executive branch nominees? A narrowly tailored change might make his nuclear gambit look more like previous episodes of reform by ruling. It might also make it easier to secure the support of 51 Democrats.
Mark Kleiman wishes Reid would be more aggressive:
It’s understandable that some Senate Democrats want to solve the current crisis with as little damage as possible to their own power and that of their successors. That’s why Reid plans to move ahead with a rules change covering executive nominations only. But the Republican threat of retaliation – the one sort of Republican utterance that is invariably sincere – makes the proposed strategy of limited rules change incoherent. Since the Republicans will retaliate against a limited rules change with a comprehensive rules change, Democrats will never again get any benefit from being able to use the filibuster. So, in a rational world, having been forced to use the nuclear option to move the current batch of blocked confirmations they’d use it on everything at once. There’s no point in getting a little bit pregnant.