No, Republicans Never Intended to Cut Back on Filibusters. Why Do You Ask?

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Here is Sen. Jeff Merkley (D–OR), describing the mood of the Senate right now:

Many of my colleagues are absolutely beside themselves with frustration, and that frustration is rapidly turning to fury.

So what’s the reason for this growing fury? Well, Merkley tried to convince his fellow Democrats to pass real filibuster reform earlier this year, but it got watered down to almost nothing in negotiations with Mitch McConnell. Democrats apparently thought that McConnell had tacitly agreed to ease up on filibustering everything that moves in return for their agreement to weaken Merkley’s reforms, but today Republicans filibustered Caitlin Halligan, an Obama nominee to fill a vacancy on the DC Circuit Court. And that’s not all:

Senate Republicans have unleashed a string of filibusters since the bipartisan rules change deal, which did not change the 60-vote threshold, was enacted in January. They include the first-ever filibuster of a secretary of defense nominee (Chuck Hagel), a letter by 43 senators vowing to filibuster any nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the filibuster of a bill to avoid sequestration, and the filibuster of judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan. It was the Halligan filibuster Wednesday morning that set off Durbin and Merkley.

We’ll see what happens. My guess is that McConnell agreed to nothing, tacit or otherwise, and any Democrats who thought otherwise were just fooling themselves. Republicans, for their part, have convinced themselves (as usual) that this is a special case: Halligan, they say, is a dangerous radical because of a single gun-related case she pursued years ago that earned the ire of the NRA. They’ve filibustered her before over this, and they’ll do it again. Ditto for other nominees. They’ve given every indication that they just flatly won’t confirm anyone for the prestigious DC Court.

But are Democrats really working themselved into a fury over this? I’ll believe it when I see it.


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