Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Byron York: The Nuclear Option and Coming Nuclear Winter

My favorite political reporter is Byron York. He is unique in that his reporting actually helps the reader understand the inner workings and meaning of political events and maneuvering.

In an article published yesterday York traces the recent history of the Senate majority threatening to stop the power to filibuster presidential nominees. In 2005 the Republican majority found an
"an arcane parliamentary maneuver that they claimed would allow them to change the Senate's rules with a simple majority -- 51 votes. Democrats were not just opposed; they believed using that method to eliminate the judicial filibuster would be nearly the end of the world. The tactic earned its name: the "nuclear option."
The change in Senate rules was averted in 2005 when a bipartisan "Gang of 14 [senators] began negotiating a way out of the deadlock."

Now, with Democrats in power in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid is threatening the nuclear option again by changing Senate rules to stop Republican filibustering confirmation of President Obama's nominees.

York doesn't stop with telling the story, he tells the reader the "inside baseball" effect this will have on the Senate. York calls it "a nuclear winter".

First, Republicans will be able to shut down the Senate by refusing "unanimous consent".
For example, nearly everything the Senate does requires that senators first agree to direct the body's attention to this or that subject. That is usually done through a routine procedure called unanimous consent. But if just one senator wants to stop things, he or she can.
. . .

If Reid goes ahead with his threat, Republicans will certainly shut down the Senate for a while; a nuclear winter will follow the nuclear option.
But, that won't be the worst.  In the future, when Democrats are in the minority, they will not have the shield of the filibuster to protect their own key interests. York explains:
Far more serious is the GOP retaliation that is sure to come at some point in the future.

Someday, there will be a Republican majority, and there will be some issue critical to minority Democrats, or some nominee key to their future, or some GOP initiative they believe it is vital to stop. That's when Republicans will take their revenge. For better or worse, for all its vaunted gentility, the Senate operates on an eye-for-an-eye basis. If Democrats break the filibuster today, someday they will find themselves hoist by their own petard, with no Senate rule to use in their defense.


MAX Redline said...

It appears that McCain negotiated a capitulation. Naturally, it doesn't work out for the R side.

T. D. said...

I like Ted Cruz's tweet:

Today, re: the so-called nuclear option, Senate Republicans preserved the right to surrender in the future.


MAX Redline said...

That's good! ;-)