End the Filibuster? Careful What You Wish For!

A short note on Steve Benen’s righteous indignation over at The Washington Monthly:

TIME TO REFORM THE FILIBUSTER…. One of the striking aspects of the political process on the Hill is how quickly everyone has adapted to a once-rare tactic becoming routine. Senate filibusters used to be exceedingly rare — a dramatic challenge only to be used under extraordinary circumstances. Only recently has the political world accepted, without so much as a discussion, the notion that literally every key measure must enjoy a 60-vote majority if it hopes to become law.

I could go into a long diatribe on this, but instead we’ll just let BJ at Newshoggers provide a much needed dose of reality, filed under “Be careful what you wish for.” The quote in question comes from Benen’s own comments section.

It is hypocritical in the extreme for Democrats to do an about face on this issue and now advocate changing the system simply because we have power. The filibuster was an important tool during the dark days of the Bush years that we were able to use to block controversial nominees (maybe leglislation as well, I just can’t remember). During those days, we argued and howled at the Republican threats of the nuclear option and arguments about the anti-majoritarian nature of the cloture system. To now argue that the system is in need of reform is completely unprincipled and hypocritical.

Although abolishing or reforming the filibuster system would be advantageous in the near term, there will come again a day when republicans control the White House and a majority of congress, and the only tool that we Democrats will have in our arsenal to prevent bad legislation or horrendous judicial nominees is the power of the filibuster. Let’s not be short-sighted.

Ok, that’s a bit more donkey-centric than I’d have phrased it, but the principle is valid. Listen, Democrats… you didn’t like it when the GOP was running the table on you, stopping all of your agenda and building audition tapes for Legislators Gone Wild. If you didn’t have the filibuster, what judges would be sitting on all the courts right now? What other legislation would be in place? Now take a look at the stimulus (I’m sorry… porkulus) package you just hung around your own necks. If that doesn’t work some miracles in the next 18 months, you may be looking at hard times in 2010. Do you want to hand that kind of power to your opponents?

Be calm. Take a deep breath. You’re going to get to put a lot of your own legislation through for the next two years and President Obama doesn’t look like he’ll be reaching for the veto pen over Pelosi and Reid any time soon. If you get too greedy now, you’re going to regret it down the road, and likely sooner than later.