I don’t know how anyone could analyze the compromise Senate Republicans struck with Senate Democrats on the nuclear option and conclude that the Republicans weren’t completely outmaneuvered. Senator Reid and President Obama got everything they wanted with respect to current nominees, plus the implied guarantee of majority votes for future nominees, without securing any enforceable commitment to apply the same standard to the nominees of future presidents.
That’s not a deal, it’s a disaster.
Granted, Republicans weren’t in an ideal situation: Senator Reid and his media allies have spent the last five months manufacturing a confirmation “crisis” Rahm Emanuel would have been proud of. Facts and consistency were no deterrents in Reid’s campaign to prove an ongoing pattern of obstructionism. As others have noted, he managed to change his position on the nuclear option while also backing out of his January non-aggression agreement with Senate Republicans.
The faux crisis was just what he needed to justify taking a high-profile hostage: the filibuster.
Republicans (and plenty of conservatives) were so distracted by the hostage that they lost track of all of the commitments they were making to preserve it. I don’t normally take advice from Keanu Reeves, but everyone would have come out of this mess in a much better position if Republican senators had simply shot the hostage.
Line up behind the nuclear option. Let Reid eliminate the filibuster for nominees.
Yes, that would have undermined Billions and Billions of years of Senate precedent. Yes, President Obama would have installed activist liberals in key positions. But isn’t that what is happening anyway? Does anyone really believe Republicans intend to actually use the rules they fought so hard to preserve?
Allowing Reid to exercise the nuclear option would have required him to pay a price, by turning him into a top-tier liar and by establishing concrete precedent that could have been applied during future presidencies. Instead, he gets his nominees, the moral authority of being the generous negotiator, and the ability to engage in epic levels of obstruction if a Republican wins the White House.
Until Democrats agree to play by the same rules, GOP senators are going to have to use the same weapons — and that means the filibuster against egregious judicial nominees. The D.C. Circuit nominees are a good place to make that clear.