Getting Rid of the Filibuster is Easy, and Everyone Already Knows It

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Today, Democrats will discuss whether they should try to change filibuster rules to make it easier to confirm executive branch nominees. Niels Lesniewski reports on how this is going:

While what may be debated behind closed doors at a Thursday Democratic caucus lunch seems pretty narrow, it may be tough to unring the bell if a “nuclear option” is in fact deployed on the floor. Under such a procedural move, a simple majority would assert the ability to change rules and procedures without the two-thirds vote needed to overcome a filibuster of a formal rules changes.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan has been the most vocal opponent of the nuclear option on the Democratic side. He conceded it may be technically possible to make a narrow change in the rules applying to disputed executive branch nominees but said that, eventually, the dam would break to kill all filibusters.

“Maybe they could figure out a way that this time, this is what we’re doing, but that doesn’t mean that the same approach couldn’t be used for something else at a later time,” Levin said.

I don’t really understand Levin’s point. Everyone already knows how to do this. All it takes is a ruling from the Senate’s presiding officer—Joe Biden at the moment—and previous vice presidents from Richard Nixon forward have all agreed that this is legitimate. In other words, it’s been done in the past, and there are no real disputes about precedent. In fact, less than a decade ago Republicans were threatening to do exactly the same thing with Dick Cheney wielding the gavel.

So sure, this same approach could be used for something else at a later time. That’s true regardless of whether Democrats do anything right now, and everyone knows it. So what’s the problem?

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate