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


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?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight 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

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.