Well, this happened. The Senate has voted for a partial nuclear option on the filibuster. Legislation and Supreme Court justices will still require 60 votes. But other nominees will only need a majority. Normally, senate rule changes require 67 vote, but Reid used a different procedure to pass the change 52-48. The primary issue here was the filibustering of three judicial nominees to bring the DC Circuit to its usual contingent of 11 judges.
As you can imagine, the Republicans are furious and are threatening future actions, including other rule changes by majority once they have the Senate back. It also being pointed out … quite correctly … that the Democrats are raging hypocrites on this subject, having spent the Bush years yammering on about process and sacred institutions and traditions. It was only when their judicial nominees were stalled that the suddenly discovered majoritarianism. I can almost guarantee that when the Democrats lose the Senate, they will unpass this rule change during the lame duck session than scream bloody murder when the Republicans try to restore it.
As for the rule change itself, my reaction is that I wish the Republicans had done this ten years ago. They sorta did when the Gang of 14 got judicial nominees through without compromising the filibuster itself. But I wish they’d made this kind of rule change to solve the problem long-term.
The filibuster is a critical check on the majority. It has stopped some of Obama’s dumber ideas (like card check) and almost stopped Obamacare. But I draw the line when it’s being used to hold up nominations that the President is obligated to make. There are nearly a hundred vacancies in courts around the country — vacancies that are slowing court cases and hurting businesses that need legal issues resolved. I spent most of the Bush years attacking Democrats for holding up Bush’s nominees (Janice Rogers Brown in particular); I’m disappointed that the Republicans decided to play the same game.
(While I’m on the subject, I do want to take on one talking point that the anti-filibusterites suddenly discovered when it was derailing their agenda. They frequently point out that the filibuster would theoretically allow senators representing 20.5 states and as little as 11% of the population to stop the Senate. But that has nothing to do with the filibuster; that’s the way the Senate is constructed. It is also theoretically possible for senators representing 25 states and 18% of the population to constitution a “majority”. The point of Senate is not to represent the people; it’s to represent the states. I have a long post cooking on the “scrap the Constitution” meme that has recently emerged on the Left.)
I don’t like the way this has been done. The Republicans are right that the Democrats have opened a can of worms here to further rule changes and the Republicans going by the absolute strict letter of Senate procedure to slow business even further. The way this should have been done is with another Gang of 14.