David Frum

12.04.12

Republicans Shouldn't Filibuster Filibuster Reform

National Review's editors come out against Harry Reid's proposed filibuster reform:

In 2005, we supported a rules change to end an unprecedented series of filibusters of judicial nominations. Reid’s campaign is not designed to restore the traditions of the Senate, as that effort was. Especially considered in combination with his attack on amendments, it is an assault on the deliberative character of the Senate. As such it deserves resistance — if only by a determined minority.

Implying insidious motives is a classic political move. But is there any there there? No, not really. This segment of Up W/Chris Hayes should prove illuminating for those who think otherwise. Note that even the former Senate Parliamentarian supports Sen. Merkley's proposal to end the filibuster on motions to proceed.

The Atlantic's David Graham identifies the reason filibuster reform is actually seen as a pressing issue:

Many Obama judicial nominees have been blocked from up-or-down votes -- not because there are specific objections to them, but because Senate Republicans refuse to allow votes or even debate on the nominations. Democrats did the same to nominees during the Bush Administration. Naturally enough, both parties are upset because they want their own nominees confirmed to lifetime appointments on the federal bench, but the hold-ups are leading to overworked judges, dependence on judges in their ninth and tenth decades, and a failure to provide speedy trials. Outside of the judicial system, the board of governors of the Federal Reserve has been short members for much of the time it has grappled with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Republicans could work around this issue with a touch of proactivity. If we want to preserve the filibuster as an institution of the Senate (I do!), get rid of the parts of the filibuster that are making the Senate an institution that doesn't work. Change the rules so Presidents can get their nominees (judicial and executive) appointed, protect the minority by ending the process of "filling the tree," and we'll have an argument for retaining the less democratic elements of our upper legislative body.