Video: White House refuses to rule out nuking filibuster rules for legislation too

Via Mediaite, which clipped this because of Jon Karl’s cheeky allusion to O dumping Hindenburg pilot Kathleen Sebelius near the end. That’s cute, but I’m more interested in what Josh Earnest (pinch-hitting for Jay Carney) says before that. Karl wants to know whether the White House opposes going full thermonuclear by ending the filibuster for Senate bills too. Remember, yesterday’s rule change supposedly applies only to confirmation votes for executive appointees, like cabinet members and lower-court judges (but not SCOTUS nominees). That gives Obama a free hand to pack federal appellate courts with hard-left liberals, but it leaves the filibuster intact for most other Senate business. How durable is that, though? Are Obama and Reid really committed to the line they’ve drawn or are we headed for a full nuking of what’s left of the filibuster, with 51 votes the new threshold for all Senate bills? Earnest’s reply: Talk to Reid. In other words, no, they’re not committed. All bets are off.

Wonkblog asked an expert on the subject what to expect going forward. Quote:

In a paper I’m writing with Sergio Campos, we lay out five illustrative options for how a majority could work its will. It’s not exhaustive, because there are dozens of ways you could do this. What the Democrats did today was our option four. You bring up something, have a cloture vote, and after you lose say, “It takes a simple majority to win this one.” We’re not the only people who had this idea but we did anticipate this possibility…

The question is whether a majority would stick together on the floor to further restrict obstruction. I would guess that some Democratic senators would not vote the same way on restricting filibusters against legislation. I can imagine, actually, a filibuster against a Supreme Court nominee being broken this way. But I’d note that, in the past, it hasn’t been necessary. Clarence Thomas was confirmed by a 52 to 48 vote, which means Democrats could have filibustered him but chose not to. If there was a similarly controversial nominee in the future, I would guess he or she might also pass with 50 votes.

What do they gain by nuking the rest of the filibuster at this point, though? I can understand doing it for a Supreme Court nominee, since that’s exclusively Senate business, but any legislation important enough to Democrats that they’d consider eliminating the 60-vote threshold to pass it would be killed by the Republican House. They gain nothing from it and lose potentially a lot insofar as they’d be responsible for removing the taboo against simple majorities with the GOP poised to retake the Senate. It’s in Democrats’ interest to keep that taboo in place unless/until they have control of Congress and the White House again. Otherwise, they risk having a Republican elected president in 2016 and no norms or procedures in place to restrain the GOP from ramming its agenda through. “Who cares?” our three lefty readers will say to that. “Republicans will probably nuke the rest of the filibuster themselves if they regain total control of government, regardless of what Democrats do.” Maybe, but the media would make the GOP pay a way steeper price politically for changing the rules than Democrats paid yesterday (namely, nothing) — especially if they were changed to facilitate a momentous vote, like repealing ObamaCare. Democrats should want the taboo against removing the filibuster for legislation in place if only for that reason. If they nuke the rest of it now, the GOP can pass repeal with 51 votes in a few years and say, quite correctly, that they’re only following the rules made by Obama and Harry Reid. Does Earnest not understand that? Or has Democratic arrogance about Hillary’s supposed inevitability reached the point where they can’t imagine the GOP taking over the federal government until 2025 at the earliest?

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