Influential senators, fearful of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s threat to jam filibuster changes through the Senate early next year, have begun back-channel talks to avoid what critics dub the “nuclear option.” [...]Gee. Where have we heard that before? Maybe in 2005 when it was the Democrats, including Pryor, teaming up with—you guessed it—Lindsey Graham and John McCain and others to constitute the "Gang of 14" to prevent Democrats from filibustering George W. Bush's most heinous judicial picks. Or maybe you remember the January 2011 "Gentleman's Agreement," the set of empty promises from Republicans on reducing obstruction the last time Harry Reid threatened real filibuster reform. We all know how that worked out for judicial nominees and just about every other piece of critical legislation taken up since Democrats took the Senate back in 2007.
So top Senate Republicans — including John McCain of Arizona, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — are trying to head off the showdown. They’re reaching out to Democrats who have expressed concerns about changing the rules by 51 votes, including Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Carl Levin of Michigan. And Republicans are reaching out to a key Reid ally, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat and chairman of the Rules Committee, to see whether a deal can be cut before the new Congress convenes in January.
These senators say they are "alarmed that the move could fundamentally change the Senate: Future majorities could cite such a precedent to change whatever rules they want in an institution designed to protect the rights of the minority." Never mind that the minority has already fundamentally changed the Senate by abusing current rules and nearly grinding the body's actions to a halt. And never mind that the proposal Reid has floated retains minority protections and that the filibuster can still be used on final passage of bills—it just means that Republicans couldn't prevent simple debate from happening on a bill with a filibuster, and would actually have to do some real work to continue to make the Senate as dysfunctional as it is today.
And never mind that the Republicans, who have happily broken every other agreement made so far, are going to have absolutely no compunction about fucking over Democrats should they regain the majority in the near future. Let's look at the reality of what the Senate is now. The absolutely unprecedented obstruction by Republicans has prevented real deliberation, has made compromise essentially impossible, and has put the federal judiciary in a very real crisis.
The Senate has already been fundamentally changed. Reid's simple reforms might actually bring back the Senate these people say they revere.