Friday, July 12, 2013

no nukes

Senate Democrats seem to be moving toward using a questionable parliamentary ploy to prevent filibusters on executive branch nominees -- what many call "the nuclear option."  I think that would be a stupid and dangerous mistake.

The filibuster and other delaying tactics have been used to excess in recent years in the Senate, so I favor measures to reduce opportunities and incentives to delay. But I don't want to eliminate the filibuster entirely, and I certainly don't want the Senate to become a majoritarian institution like the House. That's why I've recommended ending debate on motions to take up legislation and changing the rules to require opponents to produce 40 members to sustain debate, rather than the current system that forces the majority to keep producing 51 members.

I especially want to preserve the filibuster for opponents of Supreme Court nominees, who serve a lifetime, and for final passage of major legislation. I wouldn't mind a rules change allowing an up-or-down vote on executive branch nominees after a reasonable time certain.

What Majority Leader Reid seems to plan, however, uses a highly controversial parliamentary ruling to achieve a minor change related only to executive branch nominees. It would be much better to take such steps at the start of a Congress, when the case for a rules change by majority vote is more defensible, and when the threat might make the minority more amenable to a package of reforms.

There is a lot of obstruction and delay right now, but delays on executive branch nominees are hardly the biggest problem. Yet such a move only poisons the atmosphere for cooperation even more -- and creates an attractive precedent for majoritarian actions by a future Republican majority.

Don't go there now. It's just not worth it.

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