At the Washington Post, two writers I admire, Greg Sargent and Jonathan Bernstein, are excited about the prospect of filibuster reform. First, Sargent broke the news that Harry Reid plans to go for the “nuclear option” in July if the Republicans filibuster three upcoming nominees: “Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Thomas Perez as secretary of labor; and Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency.” And then Bernstein argued that Reid was playing this just right by giving the Republicans a warning and an opportunity to reform themselves.
The problem, of course, is: really?! Are we really supposed to believe that (1) Republicans will respond to what they should rightly assume is an empty threat? And is it at all credible that (2) Reid will in fact do anything this time other than shake hands with Mitch McConnell? However, it is possible that I’m being unfair to the Majority Leader. According to Bernstein, Reid is constrained because (he doesn’t put it this way) he is the leader of a bunch of wimps who wouldn’t go to the bathroom without asking permission from the Republicans. And there is likely something to that. But if it is the case that Reid doesn’t have the support of his caucus, then why is he saying anything at all?
Another problem is that we really don’t know what Reid means by his test case of three nominations. The truth is that the Republicans filibuster every nominee. I know that some nominees do get through, but that is only because some Republicans vote for cloture. Let’s be really clear here: Senate Republicans require 60 votes for every nominee. Requiring 60 senators before a vote can be cast is a filibuster. If they get the 60 senators, it was an unsuccessful filibuster; but it was still a filibuster.
So the question is, will Harry Reid launch the “nuclear option” if Republicans unsuccessfully filibuster these three nominees? Because they will filibuster them. And even worse, what if only one or two of the nominees are successfully filibustered? We don’t know. But I have a hunch: Reid will declare victory and slink away. I would love to be proven wrong.
Our only hope is to put pressure on our senators. I did so myself last night, writing to both Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. I’m not sure about Boxer, but Feinstein has often been mentioned as someone who didn’t want filibuster reform. Remember: writing to your senator is really easy. Just use the Senate’s Contacting the Senate form. Or just enter your senator’s name and “contact” into Google. If not for yourself or your country, do it for me! This stuff is really important. All you need to do is to say that you would like to see a stop to Republican abuse of the filibuster regarding nominations and that the senator should support Harry Reid’s filibuster reform using the “nuclear option.” It’s easy! And most of all: it’s effective.
One thing is for sure. If Harry Reid is ever going to do something about the filibuster, he’s going to need all of our help.