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Not So Much With The Nuclear

So the headline today is that the senate “invoked the nuclear option” and made a rules change that would limit the endless filibustering.

Not so fast. Using the term “nuclear” makes it sound ginormous, when it’s really not. To be clear, what the senate did today was to ensure that a majority vote on executive branch and non-Supreme Court judicial nominations. That’s it. They eliminated the “super majority” nonsense only on executive branch nominees. Nothing else. The minority in the senate can still filibuster everything else. So we’re still stuck in super majority hell for any other bill.

Why such a limited “nuclear” strike, when they could have effectively eviscerated the filibuster? The standard argument is that democrats understand that they will one day be in the minority, and are therefore not interested in neutering minority rights. Nonsense. The senate changed the rules today. They can change the rules tomorrow, and every day after that. And if democrats in the senate don’t think that republicans won’t go ahead and eviscerate the rights of the minority if they ever take over, they haven’t been paying attention to GOP tactics. Republicans went “nuclear” when they launched an unprecedented number of filibusters on the duly elected majority. I’m not buying the “looking ahead at future ramifications” horseshit argument.

No, I think that democrats limited the radius of the nuclear strike because they want the cover that having recalcitrant republicans give them. The blue dogs and the corporatists like being able to avoid taking votes on many of the issues that republicans filibuster. Not voting on those issues allows them to keep both their “blue dog” and their “democrat” cred. This enables certain democrats (like Dianne Feinstein, for example) to not cast votes that may jeopardize their seats. I mention Dianne Feinstein specifically, because I really believe she would be in trouble in California if she had to let her blue dog freak flag fly. Most of the blue dog senators would probably be safe because they legitimately represent states whose views are blue doggedy. But the corporatists would be in trouble.

This “nuclear” vote wasn’t about making government run much more smoothly. It was limited for a reason. I suspect that Harry Reid was worried about protecting “democratic” seats. I think he’s mostly wrong. I think that if a corporatist democrat gets ousted for being too corporatist, they’re more likely going to be replaced by a more democraty candidate, than they are by a republican. Limiting the “simple majority” to executive branch nominees isn’t going to have much impact on elections, since most people don’t pay much attention to judicial nominees.

While it may seem like Harry Reid took a giant step forward to restore democracy, it’s really just a tiny little baby step. Don’t everyone get too excited over this.

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