We all know the backstory here. In 2013, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid exercised the “nuclear option” by removing the filibuster for the confirmation of presidential appointees with the exception of nominees for the Supreme Court. At the time he was warned that once this line was crossed Republicans might take the next step but at the time he said he didn’t care.
— America Rising Squared (@ARSquared) April 4, 2017
Sure enough, when the GOP was in control of the Senate and Democrats were relying on the filibuster to block the nomination of Judge Gorsuch in 2017, Republicans changed the rules. That made it possible to confirm Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett with a simple majority, something that Democrats are very unhappy about at this moment as the court appears poised to reconsider Roe v Wade.
So today, Harry Reid has written a piece for the Las Vegas Sun arguing Democrats should go thermonuclear and get rid of the filibuster altogether:
Many Nevadans I talk to are understandably confused about why our majority isn’t governing to protect women’s rights, or why Roe v. Wade isn’t the law of the land already. And they want to know why we have not passed a whole host of other laws that would further Democratic priorities — the same priorities that won Democrats unified control of the federal government less than a year ago.
The answer is frustratingly simple: With the filibuster in place, having a majority in the Senate does not translate into the ability to pass legislation…
In 2013, while serving as majority leader of the Senate, I made the decision to support a change to the Senate’s rules to get rid of the filibuster on most presidential nominations. The decision was not easy but I made it because Senate Republicans’ brazen, unchecked obstruction left me no other choice…
We need to get the Senate working again.
It’s time Senate Democrats act with the urgency that this moment demands and abolish the filibuster once and for all.
Well, points for consistency, I guess. But there’s a bit of a problem with at least some of what Reid is suggesting. In a 50-50 Senate, getting rid of the filibuster isn’t so easy. Reid predicted earlier this year that Sen. Manchin would eventually go along with it but so far that doesn’t seem to be correct. In fact, far from being sick of stalemate in the Senate, Sen. Manchin is currently the one blocking the Biden mega-infrastructure bill, saying he might accept a bill that is less than half the current size.
Even if you could get rid of the filibuster, you just need one person who will defect to block a bill. As it happens, Manchin isn’t the only person who might refuse to go along with some of what Democrats want to do. Sen. Sinema has also shown she’s willing to say no. And while Manchin and Sinema get most of the heat for blocking Biden’s agenda, the reality is that even if they were to step aside there are other moderates in the Senate who would probably take their place.
So, for instance, Reid is raising the issue of Roe v Wade, which some Democrats are suggesting could be codified into law by Congress. Even if you get rid of the filibuster, Manchin almost certainly would not vote for such a bill and getting a Republican (Collins or Murkowski) to become the last vote for it might be tough to do. Not to mention that any law passed by a Democratic congress could be undone by a Republican congress.
Or maybe what Reid has in mind is eliminating the filibuster and then packing the Supreme Court, which is what AOC and other members of the Squad are now recommending. If so, there’s going to be a lot more moderate opposition to that idea.
The problem with removing procedural hurdles is the same one Reid should have learned back in 2013 or at least by 2017. Anything Democrats do today, Republicans can do tomorrow. Codify Roe now and the GOP could abort that law in a year or two. Pack the Supreme Court with 4 progressive Justices now and the GOP could add 4 conservatives later to swing the makeup of the court back to the right. For frustrated Democrats, the problems would change but they wouldn’t go away.
The real problem Reid and Democrats have is that not everyone agrees with them. Procedural changes aren’t going to result in the unending control of government that Democrats clearly believe they deserve.