But shortly after acknowledging the good sense of the proposed reforms, and indeed in the case of the Post, fretting that "if anything, they would go not far enough," both ed boards retreat into their too-familiar "both sides do it" safe places. The false equivalence game is unwarranted.
Consider first the warning repeated in the USA Today piece that should Senate Democrats reform the rules by majority vote, "Republicans have threatened a war they warn could shut down the Senate." The threat answers Republicans' own objection. If Republicans threaten to shut down the Senate if the rules are changed, that must mean that the rules changes proposed don't remove their ability to shut down the Senate. It's as simple as that.
As both editorials note, there are other methods available to the parties to settle the issue. Both point to the 2005 "Gang of 14" agreement by way of example, and both note that the key concession involved was the Democrats' agreement not to filibuster the Republican president's judicial nominees except in "extraordinary circumstances." That agreement held, the editorialists point out, and so similar negotiations should be expected to yield similar results this time.
Left out of the Post's recounting, however, and only mentioned in passing by USA Today, is the January 2011 "Gentleman's Agreement," which was supposed to tamp down on abuse of the filibuster in order to avoid forcing through more drastic changes by majority vote. USA Today notes only that, "the deal quickly fell apart with both sides pointing fingers." So here we have an example of Democrats bargaining for a reprieve from a rules change in 2005 and sticking to terms (this despite the fact that the Gang of 14's agreement was limited to the duration of the 109th Congress), and an example of Republicans bargaining for a similar reprieve in 2011 and not sticking to it. Conclusion: "both sides are hypocrites on this issue."
There are more differences between the battles of 2005 and today, and other objections that need to be raised to the too-brief summaries offered up in these editorials. For one thing, we're talking about a 2005 move to eliminate the filibuster entirely on lifetime appointments of federal judges versus the current move to eliminate the filibuster on procedural motions that block even the beginning of debate on routine legislation. And that's not to mention the meta-issue of whether or not it's the same thing to ask for a vote on a new set of rules at the outset of a new Congress, versus changing them in mid-game once they become a nuisance for the majority. Those issues have been amply addressed in the past and will be again. For now, it's important all by itself that when Senators, parliamentarians, independent experts and newspaper editorial boards all agree on an identified problem as critical to the future of the country as whether or not we will allow ourselves to be governed, we simply have the courage to say so without having to preemptively soothe sore feelings by pretending everyone shares equally in the blame.
Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein managed to do it and survive. The rest of us can, too.