About that Filibuster Deal

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Unsurprisingly, it contains some reductions in the power of the minority party. That was, after all, what the Democrats were after. Those reductions are real. Speeding up the calendar will make it possible for the majority party to get more legislation and nominations through. Some of the power of “holds” on nominees will be lost. A hold on a district-court nomination could lead to a 30-hour debate under the current rules but will now result in a 2-hour one. While the long-debate option was rarely used, the existence of the option probably discouraged the selection of envelope-pushing nominees.

Some of the criticisms of the deal are overblown. Take the claim that the amendment process it creates sells out backbench Republicans while creating “super senators.” Under the status quo, Harry Reid has been able to freeze out Republican amendments–be they from the leadership or from backbenchers. The deal guarantees at least two amendments for the minority. (The deal does not, contrary to some reporting, specify that the amendments would come from the minority leader or minority floor manager.) That’s a step forward for Republicans in this Senate compared to the previous two.

Left-wing groups seem to be genuinely appalled by this deal because it largely preserves the filibuster. They see it as the Democrats’ first failure of nerve in the second Obama term. Wait until they start counting the Democratic defectors on assault weapons.

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