Reid intends to do all this during a brief window at the start of the next Congress, when, it is argued (with not a little controversy), the Senate can determine its rules of order with a bare majority, and not the two-thirds vote typically required. In contrast with the House, the Senate considers itself a “continuing body,” meaning its rules carry from one Congress to the next. Reid’s stratagem would break radically from that tradition in order to push through the filibuster changes — as many have put it, effectively “breaking the rules to make the rules.”

If the proposed changes sound minor and the means of change arcane, let us simplify things: The Democrats look back at the last four years, in which they fundamentally reshaped the financial and health-care industries — in the latter case without the support of any Republicans, most independents, and some Democrats — and think they didn’t jam enough things through.