Mitch McConnell pressured to go nuclear on filibuster

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Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell turns to Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX after speaking to reporters after the Republican party policy luncheon in the Capitol in Washington September 16, 2014.  At left is Sen. John Barasso, R-WY. The U.S. House of Represe

This is fun.

Frustrated with Democrats blocking their agenda, a cadre of upstart Republicans is pushing to revamp the Senate’s rule book to make it harder for the opposition to keep key legislation from coming to the floor.
But the move pits the maverick conservatives against the party’s “old bulls”—such as Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain—who argue the changes would erode key rights of the minority and undermine how the Senate was designed to work. Many of the upstarts have never been in the minority, but veteran Republicans are wary of taking bold action now that could haunt them if they ever lose control of the chamber. […]

“I think it’s appropriate to be able to debate a bill without having to have a 60-vote margin,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). “I think when they originally put the rules in place, it was a mistake not to have

that change in the first place.”

Sound familiar? Rounds, like most of the rabble-rousers, seem to think that they’re key to success is just making President Obama veto everything that comes before him—that’s how they’ll win everything. Since actually governing isn’t high on their list of priorities, that makes sense. Chances are pretty good that if there was a Republican in the White House, if McConnell knew that everything passed with a simple majority would be signed into law, he’d do it. He’d ignore McCain and the other “old bulls” and nuke the filibuster.
Short of that, he’s appointed five senators, led by Lamar Alexander (TN) and Roy Blunt (MI) to “offer some ideas for rules reforms while ensuring that minority rights are still protected.” McConnell reportedly wants to make these changes by regular order—not by “going nuclear” and using a simple majority to make rule changes, as Harry Reid did a few years ago to get some of President Obama’s nominations onto the floor. The group has met twice, and says they’ll have something to present to the conference in the next few weeks.

The next few weeks are going to be difficult enough, and will feature plenty of Democratic obstruction of spending bills that have noxious, unrelated policy riders. If McConnell is going to act, he’s probably going to have to do it this fall, presidential veto be damned. But adding this layer of potential rule reform on what is already promising to be an extremely contentious spending debate, well, get out the popcorn.

By the way, the filibuster should be reformed. It should be done in the thoughtful way that Democratic Sens. Merkley and Udall have been pushing for several years. Thoughtful is not what Republicans are known for, but if they’re serious about reform, they should be considering that plan.

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