“There wasn’t any deal. They got what they wanted. We basically rolled over,” said Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama. “What changed is the Democrats threatened to change the rules, and they got the agreement without changing the rules.”Republicans, apparently, actually believed they could use the filibuster to shape policy and achieve pretty much any legislative goal they desired:
“Senate Republicans preserved the right to surrender in the future,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said on his Twitter feed.
Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, had been negotiating for three months, and until as recently as last week, to extract changes to the operation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in exchange for his support for confirming its first director, Richard Cordray. [...] On Saturday, Mr. McCain told Mr. Portman he would get nothing.And the teeth-gnashing continued:
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) was stunned Thursday that Republicans had allowed Labor secretary nominee Tom Perez to be confirmed, claiming his confirmation was “not part of the nuclear option deal.” Other GOP senators insisted he was. [...]The Republican discontent is so bad that Mitch McConnell tried to distance himself from the deal, telling his fellow Republicans during a private meeting with all Senate Republicans that he hadn't been involved in the deal and could have gotten a better one if only he had been at the negotiating table, prompting Tennessee's Bob Corker to literally say McConnell was full of "bullshit." On Thursday, Corker expanded on his point, albeit in less colorful language:
“We have now lost our leverage,” said Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
“I’m really glad what happened yesterday at lunch, as far as my response, I’m glad that that occurred,” he continued. “For what it’s worth, while McConnell may not have been out front, Mitch has been very, very involved all the way through, very. There was no daylight, none. So in an unfortunate and weak moment something happened, and it’s no big deal. I can just assure you that McConnell has been very, very involved every step of the way.”Here's the bottom-line: Corker's right, McConnell is lying (about both not having been involved, and about there having been a better deal available for Republicans), and the bellyaching Republicans are clueless dolts. In their mind's eye—perfectly expressed by Mike Lee—Republicans unilaterally gave up leverage in the deal. But what what actually happened is that Democrats, at long last, decided that the filibuster is something that can be eliminated by a majority vote. Once they did that, they didn't even need to detonate the nuclear option, because in saying that it can be repealed by simple majority, they effectively killed filibuster as it existed.
Once Democrats decided that they would be willing to get rid of the filibuster, the choice faced by Republicans was this: Stop filibustering nominees, or lose the filibuster—which is supposed to be a tool for extending debate, not killing legislation or routine nominations—entirely. Either way, their leverage was exactly as it should be for a minority party: Limited to the ability to make politically persuasive arguments. So when Mike Lee complains that Republicans needlessly gave up leverage, he misses the point entirely. What really happened is that Democrats decided they'd had enough and they stripped the leverage from the GOP. And the only thing Republicans, or Mitch McConnell, could have done to avoid this outcome is to not have been such enormous jerks about the filibuster in the first place.