Freaking Out About Filibuster Reform

Every few days I get a hair-raising email from Rand Paul urging me to sign a petition and donate some money because “left-wing benefactors are busy mobilizing support to RAM through Harry Reid’s illegal, rule-breaking filibuster scheme as soon as the Senate goes back into session.”

When the majority party has less than 60 votes, they always complain about the minority party abusing the filibuster to delay all their important legislation.¬†I’ve read something or other about the Democrats wanting to go back to some “old rules” where you actually have to be speaking on the floor Jimmy-Stewart-style to filibuster (so… you don’t have to now?), which from a neutral standpoint doesn’t sound so bad to me, but apparently it’s even more complicated than that and there are multiple filibuster techniques up for reforming.

I don’t care too much about the details; whatever they are, the general idea is that Democrats want to change the rules to make the filibuster less useful to the minority party. I love the Pauls, but I’m having a hard time getting freaked out about this.

First, it’s a little disingenuous to claim in their emails that “Should Harry Reid succeed, he’ll be able to RAM Barack Obama’s entire radical agenda into law – with little to no opposition” – mainly because the Republicans still hold a majority in the House of Representatives.

But more importantly, freaking out about filibuster reform just seems a little shortsighted to me. I can easily imagine a scenario where Reid and the Democrats make the filibuster less useful; they don’t really get to do much more but what they do maybe even contributes to the Democrats losing the Senate majority in 2014; and the bare-majority Republicans then get to trounce all over the Democrats thanks to a weakened filibuster that they weakened themselves!

Now maybe you don’t think the Republicans will ever get the majority back, especially if you believe in “Peak Republican,” or maybe there really is something illegitimate about the way the Democrats are trying to change these rules. But to me the “scheme” seems just as likely to backfire as succeed, and I’m not convinced terrible things would be possible even if it does succeed. I know I’m generally biased, perhaps too much, towards¬†not freaking out about things, but in this particular case I’m not sure I see a reason to worry.

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