GOP Moves Against Filibusters–Ineffectively

The Senate’s Rules and Administration Committee approved yesterday–by a 10-0 vote, with all Democrats boycotting the session–Bill Frist’s anti-filibuster proposal. Under the proposed rule, the number of votes needed to end a filibuster would decline with each vote taken until only a simple majority would be required. However, the proposal appears to have zero chance of passing the Senate, where 67 votes would be needed.
It is unclear to me what the Republicans have in mind. If they think that the Democrats’ stopping Frist’s rules reform will add to the political pressure on Democrats to stop filibustering jucicial nominees, they are sadly over-estimating the extent to which the public follows the arcana of political procedures. The custom of requiring 60 votes to stop debate has no particular legal status, and if they were willing to disrupt the Senate’s traditions–which in my view could stand some disrupting–it appears clear that the filibuster rule could be changed by a simple majority. But this procedure, now universally referred to as the “nuclear option,” a fact which doesn’t make it any more likely to be employed, is one for which the Republicans have so far shown no stomach. So no practical effort to end the Democrats’ undemocratic and arguably unconstitutional practices is in sight.

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