Republican Senate leaders are touting a deal they struck with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to avoid the “nuclear option,” a procedural maneuver that would have allowed Reid to eliminate the filibuster on presidential nominations. Next time, they should just let Reid pull the trigger.
Partisan attitudes toward the filibuster typically vary based on which party is in control of the Senate. In 2005, when they were in the minority, Democrats thought the filibuster was sacred, while Republicans supported changing the rules. Now the situation is reversed.
In the recent fight, preserving the ability to filibuster executive branch appointments had a short-term appeal for Republicans: the ability to block President Obama’s nominees appointed to impose his agenda through the regulatory process. But it also had a potential long-term downside: If a Republican is president, Democrats can use the same tactics to obstruct his or her appointments.
The result of the deal was the worst of both worlds for Republicans. As Sean Higgins details, Democrats got what they wanted in the short-term anyway — a union-friendly National Labor Relations Board. But in the long-term, because Reid didn’t have to pull the nuclear trigger, Democrats have maintained the power to filibuster the nominees of the next Republican president, should they find themselves in the minority.
Defenders of the compromise argue that Republicans preserved their right to filibuster future nominees. But Reid also preserved his nuclear threat. As long as Republicans are buckling anyway, they may as well let Reid kill the filibuster on executive nominations. A future Republican president will thank them for it.