This is how Democrats work. First they compromise. Then they back off. Then they come back with more compromises. Then they back off again. Again they come back with yet more compromises. And finally they compromise some more.
And that’s what we’re getting with filibuster reform. We couldn’t have complete filibuster reform. So we talked about just judicial and executive branch nominees. And then just executive branch nominees. That was pretty weak tea from my perspective, but at least it was something—and it was completely justified. And as of last night, it looked like that compromise of a compromise might hold. Mitch McConnell offered to permit all seven of the “test” nominations to go forward if Reid would back off on his use of the so called nuclear option. Reid said no.
This morning, the Boston Globe is reporting that Reid has caved again:
If ratified, the deal would mark a retreat by Reid from his insistence on Monday that all seven of the pending nominees be confirmed.
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell privately offered to clear the way for several of the nominees, officials in both parties said.
What’s more, the article says that people worry that the nuclear option would poison relations between the parties. What a joke! Are relations not already poisoned? Then to top off this bit of hand wringing, “But critics say Reid’s plan would be likely to prompt Republicans to retaliate by doing even more to reduce the minority party’s rights if the GOP regains control of the Senate.” As I’ve argued again and again and again: that’s going to happen anyway.
As of this writing, the deal is still not done. But once again it looks like there is nothing the Democrats will do to fix the Senate. We will have to wait for the Republicans to take over the Senate and live through some very unpleasant legislative years before we can see any real reform. Harry Reid and his Democratic caucus are again showing they have no backbone and won’t do even the smallest things for their constituencies.
Update (16 July 2013 9:13 am)
Greg Sargent has posted some details of the deal along with a bunch of hogwash:
This has always been about forcing Republicans to drop their blockade of nominations. The preference of Dem leaders has, from the outset, plainly been to avoid a rules change by simple majority by getting Republicans to cave on just enough nominations to give them the cover not to change the rules. The future of the filibuster aside, Democrats got this, and then some. And, crucially, by standing firm, and escalating the threat level in a way that maintained credibility, they made it clear that there is a marker that Republicans must not cross—there is a point at which Republican obstructionism becomes so undemocratic and intolerable that Democrats will change the rules to put an end to it. That marker remains in place.
Wrong! The time to draw a line in the sad was 2009. Now it just looks weak.
Part of the deal is that the Democrats are backing off on two nominees for the National Labor Relations Board. But the Republicans promise to allow two new nominees picked by labor groups to get a vote by the end of July. I don’t even understand this. What is so wrong with the current people that will be fixed by new nominees? It sounds like a way for the Republicans to save face, but this is a deal that the Democrats need to save face on. Regardless, the deal is not terrible. But you have to ask: why are filibusters allowed on executive branch nominees? In the past they were never used. Everyone agrees that presidents ought to be able to pick their own people. What’s the big deal?
Meanwhile, judges will go unconfirmed until there is a Republican president. Good job, Harry!
Update (16 July 2013 9:50 am)
NBC News is reporting that the deal has been struck. And Steven Benen makes a good point about the deal. It is different from the one that McConnell offered in that the new deal does not taken the nuclear option off the table. Of course, this is all about expectations and that is a game that the Republicans play very well. I can’t help thinking that Mitch McConnell and John McCain are running good cop / bad cop on the Democrats. McConnell does everything to obstruct and even lies about deals. McCain comes riding in to save the day with a deal that in any reasonable world sucks. But it could be worse, because it has. Just the same, the fact that you aren’t being tortured on your birthday doesn’t make up for the fact that no one called.
Update (16 July 2013 10:01 am)
I continue to see loads of happy horseshit coming from the Villagers. Ezra Klein says something I’m not convinced about but which may be true, “This will be the new normal.” But then he notes that the Republicans will also have the same new normal if they are in charge under President Christie. No, no, no! What’s wrong with these people? They are so used to pretending that we are all just a big group committed to working together that they completely miss what’s going on. Every time the Republicans have been in the minority, they have greatly expanded the use of the filibuster. The last time they were in power, they effectively destroyed the filibuster. Once the Republicans hold the White House and the Senate, the Majority Leader will do whatever he likes. If there were no “new normal,” he would just create one. And he will do a hell of a lot more than that. I am so tired of listening to Villagers talk as though the Republicans have just been a bit overzealous recently. This has been going on a long time and nothing is going to stop it.
Update (16 July 2013 11:59 am)
Matt Yglesias is in fine form this morning. He lays it out exactly right. This may be a win for the Democrats:
But is it a win for America? I would say no. The whole reason that this is an issue is that a number of the more senior Democratic Party senators have a fairly deep affection for filibustering. But requiring 60 yes votes for the senate to approve things is not a reasonable decision rule. It undermines democratic accountability and excessively loads the dice against any kind of policy reform. Deals that advance particular substantive goals while leaving a bad procedural framework in place are to be regretted.