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April 26, 2005

Why Change the Rule?

People think "filibuster" and they think senators reading from the phone book. It doesn't work that way now. With the cloture rule, it takes 60 votes to close debate on anything brought under an "open rule," meaning no limit to debate. At the same time, it takes a quorum to conduct business.

This means that the Republicans would need to keep 50 members on the floor at all times, in order to keep debate going, while the Dems would only need to have 1 member present to object and force a cloture vote, which the Republicans can't get 60 votes to pass. There would be no need for the Dems to hold the floor. No Mr. Smith making impassioned pleas, just Republicans praising a candidate, and failing to move the nomination. All the while, those same Republicans wouldn't be able to attend committee hearings.

This morning NPR (don't ask) was reporting that Reid is trying to get the Republicans to drop the nuclear option in return for withdrawing some nominations, which would really screw the separation of powers and give the Dems what they want - a de facto transfer of nomination power from the President to the Senate. My guess is Reid wouldn't even be talking if he thought he had the votes.

I don't think the filibuster rule, as presently constituted, is long for this world. The Dems are almost certainly drawing up battle plans for revoking the thing either piecemeal or in total when they get back into power. Their argument will be that the Republicans wanted to do it, but the Dems held firm against radical judges. Now that you've voted them back into power, they have an obligation, blah blah blah. More than the nuclear option, it's the pre-emptive option. Please let's not call it the pre-emptive nuclear option.

Posted by joshuasharf at April 26, 2005 05:53 AM | TrackBack

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