|It's JUST Like This|
Why'd they do this? There are a number of reasons but the key one is this: the judicial appointments Republicans are blocking could have serious consequences on Obama's second term agenda, much of which will be litigated in DC circuit courts. This is also a big deal: In recent years the filibuster has become a significant player in partisan politics (which is, you know, all politics in the modern age):
Here's a graph:
|It looks kinda like a ... hockey stick|
In one sense, nothing: the Republicans still control the House and are likely to for the next three years. Making the Senate more majority friendly doesn't make it easier to pass legislation. It also doesn't exactly apply to actual legislation (bills) so ... uh ... so what?
On the other hand, it means that the previous norms are out the window. Here are some possibilities for the future:
- Oh, So That's How You Want To Play It? The filibuster is the only way to totally stop legislation--but it sure isn't the only way to slow it down. If the Republicans Strike Back they could do maximal obstruction on every vote and bring the upper house to its knees.
- Our Turn Now! When the Republicans get control of the Senate (in 2014 of course) they could remove the entire filibuster in justified retaliation (well, 'justified retaliation,' anyway) and then use that to pass legislation at will through both houses landing every piece of whimsy on Obama's desk.
- You Made Your Bed. If nothing else, when the Republicans win the presidency and hold the Senate they can nominate actually conservative judges (not that they'd have done that before!).
The Question: Desperate or Confident?
The reason this is happening now--and the way it did is this: The current and historically unusual climate of polarization.
|101 Congress is George H.W. Bush (Link from 2010)|
Of course this makes 2014 control of the Senate do-or-die for both parties and, honestly, the Republicans don't look so bad there (there are 6 retiring Democrats compared to 2 retiring Republicans and 21 Democrats on the ballot compared to 14 Republicans). Clearly, to risk the entire upper chamber, Reid must feel either desperate or confident.
According to the Center For Politics it's razor thin: Likely 50 D, 48 R, two Toss-up.
So the analysis here is that Reid is doing this specifically to help President Obama (who needs to get his nominations through Congress) rather than the Democrats as a whole (who are not guaranteed to hold the Senate and almost certainly will not get the House).
NOTES: Here is a Nuclear Option Explainer from 2005 when the shoe was on the other foot!