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U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives to speak to the media about healthcare on Capitol Hill in Washington October 29, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Kaboom.
Just four months ago, I wrote:
True, today's deal preserved the existing filibuster rule, but it really didn't. Democrats established that they could bust through any filibuster with a simple majority anytime they wanted. Sure, it's still a process to do so, full of blustery threats and hyperbolic doomsaying, but it's a process [...]

But if Republicans continue to prevent up-or-down votes on further administration officials, or perhaps more importantly, judicial ones, Democrats now have a tool to force action. And that means we've come a long way from a few years ago, when Senate Democrats simply shrugged at the inevitability of the GOP filibuster arguing they had no other option.

I must admit, I didn't expect Republicans to challenge this notion this quickly. And the reason is simple: Even with a truncated and compromised filibuster, Republicans were able to gum up the works to unprecedented levels. As Bill Sher at the Campaign for America's Future notes, the federal judiciary is now evenly balanced, with 390 GOP-appointed judges and 391 Democratic-appointed ones. However, there are 93 vacancies.
Republicans could relent on Obama’s right to fill vacancies and keep the filibuster in place. Obama would get some more judges, but he would not be able to fill all the outstanding vacancies by next year considering that he has only identified nominees for about half of those seats. But if Republicans provoke the end of the filibuster, then I suspect the White House can quickly find another 50 or so judges without much fuss.
In other words, surrendering on three judges would've allowed the GOP to continue obstructing the other 87. Provoking the Democrats into eliminating the filibuster, on the other hand, now allows Democrats to ram all 90 through with minimal trouble. And there's no longer any need to try and find judges that can pick up a handful of Republican votes, so they should prove better ideologically. This will also take the judiciary from a 50-50 partisan split to a 55-45 Democratic-appointed one. And we still have another three years of vacancies ahead of us before we choose our next president.

So why surrender their ability to gum up the works? Is it a bet that they'll take over the chamber in the 2014 elections? Not really. A presidential veto would negate the need for minority Democrats to filibuster.

So is it a bet that Republicans will take both the Senate next year, and the White House in 2016? Perhaps. But if so, why not give proper deference for three years, relent on a handful of judges, preserve the filibuster, and then ditch it when they theoretically took power in early 2017?

None of this makes sense. Republicans have been daring Democrats to go nuclear all week, and today things went "boom!". But that bomb detonated over Republicans while Democrats watched from a safe bunker miles away. So what were Republicans thinking?

Originally posted to kos on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 09:44 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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