So I’m watching TV the other day and I see Sen. Tom Udall on the Rachel Maddow show, arguing that the Senate must get rid of the filibuster. And he called his plan to do so the “constitutional option.” Hmmmm, I thought to myself. That’s funny, because that’s exactly what Republicans tried to call the same plan when they wanted to get rid of the filibuster in 2005.
There’s nothing constitutional (or unconstitutional, for that matter) about it, of course. The constitution leaves it to the two chambers of Congress to set their own rules for passing legislation. It only mandates particular types of majorities for votes on specific subjects (impeachment, for example). Getting rid of the filibuster may be a good or bad idea, but neither option is constitutional required.
When the Republicans were considering trying to end the filibuster, as Democrats are considering it today, they used “nuclear option” and “constitutional option” interchangeably in the press. And now we have Democrats pressing for the same thing they opposed 5 years ago and even using the same name.
Andrew Breitbart is an obnoxious asshole, but this video from his website is spot on in pointing out the hypocrisy of Democrats who are now calling for a change in Senate rules to get rid of the filibuster. Of course, Breitbart won’t point out the equal hypocrisy of Republicans in the matter but I already have and will continue to do so.
My favorite part is where Biden says on the floor of the Senate that the nuclear option is “the ultimate example of the arrogance of power” and a “fundamental power grab.” Harry Reid also says it was only being considered because of the “arrogance of power of this Republican administration.” Now if the Democrats go through with it, he’ll have to be the one pulling the trigger.
It will be great fun to watch him try to justify himself. And equally fun to watch the Republicans in the Senate wax eloquent about the arrogance of the Democrats in doing what they wanted to do 5 years ago too.
By the way, I should also note that this does not apply to the possibility of using reconciliation rules to get some of the elements of health care reform passed without needing the 60 votes to invoke cloture. I don’t have a problem with that for this reason: Using the filibuster to make sure that it takes 60 votes to pass a bill instead of 51 is a procedural trick to achieve a goal. Using reconciliation to get around that would also be a procedural trick to achieve a goal. And the Republicans have used reconciliation in the past for the same purpose. So if the Democrats want to do the same thing to get around the filibuster, I say have at it. But if they try to get rid of the filibuster, as they are now talking about doing, they will only be engaging in the same script-exchanging hypocrisy that the Republicans have been doing all along.