Thursday, February 12, 2015

Don't Kill the Filibuster over DHS

Because Senate Democrats have continued to filibuster a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security, some House Republicans have called upon Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to "go nuclear" and eliminate the filibuster.  One can understand the desire of members of Congress to strike back at executive overreach, but invoking the "nuclear option" would be a mistake for a few reasons.

First, it would not eliminate the real roadblock, which is President Obama's decision to veto any funding bill that defunds his executive overreach.

Second, going nuclear would violate regular order in the Senate.  If we mean the Senate to be the body of deliberation and consensus that the Founders intended it to be, maintaining a respect for regular order (which requires a 2/3 vote of the Senate to change rules) will be crucial.

Third, the filibuster itself may play a role in maintaining the Senate as an institution of consensus, so jettisoning it would be a risky proposal indeed.

Going nuclear on the filibuster could do grave structural damage to the traditional role of the Senate and would not really help get DHS funded.

At the moment, many Senate Republicans, including the Majority Leader, seem to have no interest in going nuclear.  Rebuilding the Senate after the recent deviations from traditional norms has been a key goal of Senator McConnell, and going nuclear would set that enterprise back considerably.

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