Does the nuclear option doom filibusters altogether?


I suspect that it will take at least a few days for the American body politic to even begin to grasp the significance of what happened today in the U.S. Senate (see HERE).

This is a big deal. A very big deal. It might take a while for John and Mary Citizen to get their minds around this issue — after all, we’re talking about the arcane rules of a legislative body that prides itself on its deliberative style. But there’s a good chance that what happened today will forever change the Senate in far-reaching ways.

Among the countless reactions to the new rules, perhaps the best is THIS ONE from Ezra Klein:

The filibuster now exists in what you might call an unstable equilibrium. It theoretically forces a 60-vote threshold on important legislation. But it can — and now, in part, has —been undone with 51 votes. Its only protection was the perceived norm against using the 51-vote option. Democrats just blew that norm apart. The moment one party or the other filibusters a consequential and popular bill, that’s likely the end of the filibuster, permanently.

The practical end of the Senate’s 60-vote threshold is not plunging the chamber into new and uncharted territories. It’s the omnipresence of the filibuster in recent decades that plunged the chamber into new and uncharted territories. At the founding of the Republic, the filibuster didn’t exist. Prior to the 1970s, filibusters — which required 67 votes to break for most of the 20th century — were incredibly rare.





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