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Boychuk: Ending the filibuster could come back to haunt Democrats

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada speaks

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada speaks to the media at the Capitol (Dec. 23, 2011) Credit: AP

Republicans are fighting vigorously to maintain the filibuster as a check on a liberal Senate majority. Maybe this is the wrong fight to pick.

A few years ago, Republicans argued that a minority of Democrats exploited the filibuster to block President George W. Bush’s judicial nominations. Some conservative legal scholars even made a compelling case that the Democrats’ judicial filibusters were flatly unconstitutional. After all, the Constitution gives the Senate the power of “advice and consent.” But in the past decade “advice and consent” has hardened into a posture of “obstruct and delay.”

The Republicans were correct when they threatened to use the “nuclear option” against the Democrats and change Senate rules that make the filibuster a cheap and easy tactic of obstruction. Today, the filibuster is a monster. It shouldn’t matter who’s in charge.

Not that it hasn’t been pleasing to watch McConnell expose Reid as a rank hypocrite over the past week. McConnell, who is no slouch when it comes to exploiting Senate rules, has been reading Reid’s formerly pious defenses of the filibuster into the  record.

The Senate is supposed to be a more collegial body than the House of Representatives, where simple majority rule prevails. And goodness knows, rules are important. But rules are also made to be broken, especially when the rules no longer make sense.

Conservatives may balk at ending the filibuster. Think of the insane bills Reid and the Democrats could usher along. Imagine the terrible judges they could confirm to lifetime appointments on the federal appellate courts.

That’s true. But Democrats would no longer be able to blame Republicans for obstructing their agenda. Instead, they would be compelled to defend their liberal voting records.

Reid apparently believes, against all reason, experience and good sense, that Republicans will never again have a majority in the Senate. Grant the Democrats their wish, end the filibuster and let them take the consequences.

Ben Boychuk is associate editor of City Journal.


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