Cheers to Senate Democrats for holding together to make Republican Leader Mitch McConnell cave and relent on his insistence that the filibuster will remain place. As David Nir predicted, it was a mistake on his part to insist on this, because now when it comes time to break the filibuster—and that time will come—it will be tied to popular, necessary legislation. Like the Voting Rights Act, as David surmised. It would be fitting if the filibuster—or that "Jim Crow relic," as President Obama called it—finally ended in a restoration of civil rights.
So the Senate can finally get organized, with committees coming under the control of the Democratic majority and getting to work on clearing President Biden's nominees. McConnell relented to what Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had been insisting on from the beginning, a deal "modeled on that precedent" from 2001, when there was last a 50-50 split. It came after Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema publicly said that they were opposed to eliminating the filibuster, giving McConnell a fig leaf to hide behind. It also puts off that fight, because it is inevitable. McConnell filibustered over his future ability to filibuster, so that's a promise that he'll block Biden's agenda.
It will happen, and on a faster trajectory than before. As filibuster guru Adam Jentleson reminds us, "It took five years of GOP obstruction under Obama for Dems to embrace a limited nuclear option in 2013. We don’t have that long, but this reform takes time." We've seen a dramatic evolution among Senate Democrats toward the filibuster and the necessity of getting rid of it. Take Sen. Jon Tester from Montana, who said this week "I feel pretty damn strongly, but I will also tell you this: I am here to get things done. […] If all that happens is filibuster after filibuster, roadblock after roadblock, then my opinion may change."
Or look at Sen. Michael Bennett from Colorado. In June 2019, he was completely against tossing the filibuster. This week, his spokesperson released this statement: "We are in the midst of an unprecedented public health and economic crisis. If we can't make progress because of political posturing, we'll have to consider all options." Or Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, probably Biden's closest Senate ally. At the end of 2018, he said "The filibuster rule in the Senate is one of the only remaining traditions that forces us to compromise. We need more of that, not less." Never mind that it did not force compromise because McConnell doesn't do that on anything that really matters. By June 2020, he had come around. "I will not stand idly by for four years and watch the Biden administration's initiatives blocked at every turn," he said. "I am gonna try really hard to find a path forward that doesn't require removing what's left of the structural guardrails, but if there's a Biden administration, it will be inheriting a mess, at home and abroad. It requires urgent and effective action."
Not blowing up the filibuster on something procedural and arcane like the organizing resolution, as important as it is, means that blowing up the filibuster will be justifiable. It will be on a critical and popular bill that Democrats can unite behind. Schumer and his fellow Democrats seemed to have recognized that and held their ground. It was a miscalculation by McConnell, who seems to have forgotten that he's not calling the shots anymore.