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Richard Kasbeer
Jan. 4, 2013

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Re "going bust" comment that changing rule doesn't matter currently, due to House being on opposite side of issues: Actually what really matters for the next two years is that in the absence of filibuster reform appointments to administrative positions and the federal courts will continue to be held up by a single Senator with a gripe unrelated to the prospective department head or judge. As a result, well-qualified people will balk at serving. Imagine a successful Nevada attorney with a family gets nominated by the President for a high position, but won't know for months or years whether her nomination will be held up by the whim of a Senator from Mississippi or New Hampshire, who has a burr in his &*#@ about something unrelated. Does she move her kids to new schools? Does she quit taking new clients or cases? Or does she say "No, thanks," since there is a real possibility that her nomination will never get approved? This hurts us all.
And regarding a switch to the minority: Tough luck. The Democrats won't like being in the minority no matter what, but in that case they shouldn't be allowed to obstruct either. Minority rights are protected in the Constitution, not in Senate rules. Unpopular political parties do not deserve special treatment, whoever they are.
We should let Harry Reid know how we feel. My hope is that he does not fall for a weak compromise on this important issue, and if he does, the Udall/Merkley/Harken trio and their supporters will insist on a majority vote on additional reforms. And they certainly know that once this is done, a different political party in a future majority will have no motivation to take a less majoritarian approach. Onward!

(Suggest removal) 1/4/13 at 1:34 p.m.

There are a couple errors in the article:
"Republicans say that to pass a rule change to the filibuster, Reid needs to have a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes...."
Republicans actually say Reid needs 2/3 to make a rule change (the rule from the previous [112th] Senate), not 60 votes.
"If Reid relies on the simple majority to pass rules for the 113th Congress, it is known as the "nuclear" option, because it presupposes that Senate rules have already changed to change the rules."
The "nuclear option" term, as originally coined [by Trent Lott], refers to changing the rule in the middle of a session with a majority, rather than establishing rules on the first "legislative day" of a Senate, which is arguably more appropriately called the "Constitutional option." But since these names, particularly the "nuclear" one, are nicknames, I guess one can call them whatever one wants, so opponents will call them both "nuclear," and proponents might call them both "Constitutional." And when they change the terminology as they move from minority to majority, you'll know they are hypocrites. (My guess is Senators Tom Harken and Tom Udall will be exceptions.)
But whatever you call it, changing the rule on day one does not presume the rules have already changed. It presumes there are no Senate rules at all, so it goes by common law, the Constitution, and previous court decisions. And on that basis, majority will rule until some other rule is established; furthermore, a legislature cannot have its rules dictated by another body (the Constitution is not another "body"), such as a previous legislature (e.g. Senate). And, of course, the new Senate cannot create a rule to dictate what the Senate in 2019 or 2047 must do (concept known as entrenchment).

(Suggest removal) 1/4/13 at 1:14 p.m.

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