After all the posturing and faux concern, it looks like the Iran nuclear deal is going to happen. Politico reported, White House Pushes for Iran Filibuster. It had looked like the anti-deal bill was going to fly through Congress and Obama would have to veto it. And at times, it looked like he mightn’t even be able to sustain the veto. But now it is looking like the Democrats may have the votes for a filibuster in the Senate so that it won’t even come to a veto. This would be a good thing, because we really don’t need this deal to look like something so fragile that a simple change of presidents will kill it.
(There is something to think about in that regard, however. Imagine if it does come down to a veto and there is a Republican president on 20 January 2017 and he does as most of them say they will: kill the deal. This is not going to change anything regarding our other P5+1 partners. So the one thing that the US can do that will make Iran most likely to get a nuclear weapon is for some nimrod like Scott Walker to talk tough and destroy the deal. But of course, the Republican attacks on the deal have nothing to do with Iran getting a nuclear weapon.)
Jonathan Chait noted something loony and quite frankly, hilarious, in that same Politico article, Republican Senator Discovers Minority Can “Filibuster,” Is Outraged. Said Republican in Bob Corker, who is not, you know, new to the Senate. He was part of the gang in the early days of Obama’s presidency who filibustered everything short of the least controversial post office names. When he found out that Harry Reid was trying to build a filibuster, Corker said, “Are you kidding me?”
Chait went into some depth about how Corker doesn’t seem to even understand what a filibuster is. Corker is saying that it will be used to stop the Senate from talking about it. But it is the opposite. The filibuster keeps debate going and stops the Senate from voting on it. As Chait put it, “Every senator who wants the chance to read their canned talking points on the Senate floor while the other senators ignore them will have the chance to do so either way.” I can’t say if Corker is ignorant or disingenuous, but I wouldn’t be surprised that it is the former. Among Republicans, it seems to be the case that anything that allows them to “win” is acceptable. Believing in norms requires understanding the purpose of them. You go a long way to destroying them by not understanding their purpose.
I’m not a believer in the filibuster because it is totally out of hand and has been for a long time. But I’m not against the idea of the filibuster. There was a time when the filibuster was only used to stop things that Senators really hated. Sure, the bigots filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But they didn’t filibuster everything else just because they disagreed. I think the Iran nuclear deal is an issue that is important enough for people on both sides to filibuster. (The way things are, there is no point to the anti-deal side filibustering; but if things were different, I would be against them, but I would admit that the issue rose to the level of filibuster importance.)
So what we have here is a case where Republicans filibustered executive branch nominees who would later be approved unanimously. And that was something that Bob Corker was fully supportive of. But the moment the same tactic is used against him, he’s outraged. That, my friends, is the very height of the maturity of the Republican Party.