The New York Times reports that if Mitch McConnell becomes Senate Majority Leader in November, he may move to undo the “nuclear option” and to restore the filibuster to its previous state:
“If the American people give us the opportunity to put the Senate under new management, it is an appropriate discussion at that time for the new team that would be taking over the Senate, ” Mr. McConnell said in an interview. “It is a conversation for December.”
The prospect of returning the threshold for breaking filibusters on nominees to 60 votes from the simple majority established by the Democrats in November does not represent an immediate risk for Republicans. If they seize the majority, they will not need to rely on the procedural tactic to block President Obama’s nominees during his final two years in office, since they will control the agenda. And Democrats in the minority presumably would not filibuster administration choices.
But reversing the filibuster change would be a symbolic reproach over an act that Republicans contend did significant damage to the Senate — an institution that prides itself on strict adherence to custom and traditions — without getting Democrats all that much.
“We are going to treat senators with respect, we are going to work harder and accomplish more,” said Mr. McConnell, still furious with Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the current majority leader, over what Republicans considered an outrageous power grab in limiting the filibuster last year. “The Senate can be returned to the place of great debates, contentious debates, but where you can still get outcomes on things where you have at least 60 senators.”
Power is power and politics is politics. And, as the Times notes, it wouldn’t greatly hurt McConnell or his party to undo Reid’s changes. Nevertheless, this is precisely what conservatives who profess to hold a principled stance toward the limitations of power should be doing. The Democratic party — and President Obama — have made themselves look foolish with their yo-yoing attitude toward the filibuster. If the GOP wants to live up to its rhetoric, it’ll make good on it if given the chance.