GOP Obstinacy Is Emboldening Filibuster Reform

by evanmcmurry

A few days ago, I wrote a history of the past four years as a series of Republicans declining concessions from Obama over various fights (health care, the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff) only to lose everything they wanted due to their own intransigence: Obama got health care reform, the GOP got blame for the debt ceiling, and the fiscal cliff ended with an upper income tax hike and no spending cuts. On major battles the GOP is 0 for 3, despite unforced assists from the President.

In case you can’t tell, the GOP House has learned little to nothing from an election that saw their side get trounced in every possible metric (only redistricting saved them in the House; Democratic candidates actually had more aggregate votes). Thus far the GOP has refused to give an inch on the fiscal cliff, any of Obama’s cabinet nominees, the Violence Against Women Act, and so on. And while everybody’s focused on the next debt ceiling debate (one Republicans are rapidly realizing is not in their interests), their current obstinacy is jumpstarting another fight: eliminating the filibuster.

After the election, we started hearing a lot about reforming the filibuster, which, along with the insane GOP House, is one of the bridles keeping government from being able to do pretty much anything. But the closer we got to the Senate’s reconvening (a loophole allows the Senate to change the rules on the first day with only 51 votes, thus precluding Republicans from filibustering filibuster reform), the more waffly Harry Reid sounded about the whole thing, and the more the furor over the filibuster got subsumed by other stories.

Not anymore. The GOP’s tanking of Susan Rice’s nomination used up all of the patience in the Capitol. Now that Republicans are throwing a tantrum not only over Chuck Hagel, one of their own, but Jack Lew, who seems a genuinely inoffensive Treasury candidate (besides Charles Pierce’s legitimate beef), it’s clear that the Republicans never cared about Susan Rice and Benghazi, or Chuck Hagel and Israel, or Jack Lew and anything. They simply care about grinding the bare minimum of Democratic governorship to halt.

Democrats have watched the reaction to Hagel and Lew and decided enough is enough, and are pursuing reform with new gusto. Eliminating the filibuster, of course, will allow much easier passage not only of Hagel’s and Lew’s nominations, but of nominations to which Republicans might have a genuine objection, along with a whole host of other legislation they won’t like in the next two years (quick, imagine what Obamacare might look like without Scott Brown’s sudden 41st-man veto power). Once again, by being obstinate over every little thing, the GOP looks to lose the big fight. Are they ever going to figure this out?