(CNN)Ten years ago, the idea that the Senate would wipe out the filibuster rules in order to confirm a Supreme Court justice was a radical one. Today it is happening -- and no one seems terribly surprised.
How the filibuster is dying with a whimper not a bang
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is set to invoke the so-called nuclear option sometime early Thursday afternoon after a series of procedural stalls from Democrats. What that means is that McConnelll will move to change the Senate rules requiring 60 votes as the necessary threshold to end the unlimited debate around the Gorsuch nomination. That rules change requires only a simple majority, which Republicans have. (They control 52 seats currently.) And that will set the stage for a Gorsuch confirmation vote -- again, only a simple majority is required -- some time Friday.
Within 48 hours then, the way in which nominees for the highest court in the country are confirmed will irreparably change. That's a very big deal and a slippery slope to the Senate becoming a majority-rule body -- like the House -- on all matters that come before it. (At the moment, the 60 vote threshold still holds for virtually all legislation.)
And yet, most people -- including most politicians -- don't seem to care much.
For the average person, that's because they are simply not engaged in (or interested in) the arcana of Senate procedure. I get it.
For politicians, the ho-hum nature of the nuclear option seems to stem from the fact that since then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the filibuster rules on federal judges in 2013, there's been an expectation that this day -- in regards the Supreme Court -- would come. (Reid exempted Supreme Court justices.) Pandora's box, once opened, is not easily closed.
All true. But, I also think that glossing over what happened on the floor of the Senate today would be a major mistake. We are talking about centuries worth of precedent that is headed out the window. And that change in precedent will do something very, very important: Rob the minority party of one of their fundamental rights.
Blame is due on both sides. And the impact will be felt by both sides. (One of the unbreakable rules of politics is that the pendulum swings, and the majority party becomes the minority party and vice versa.)
Earlier this year, Chuck Schumer, then the incoming leader of Senate Democrats, admitted that he believed Reid's move to change the filibuster rules in 2013 was a mistake. "I argued against it at the time," Schumer said on CNN. "I said both for Supreme Court and in Cabinet should be 60 because on such important positions there should be some degree of bipartisanship."
I wonder whether the 100 Senators involved in this nuclear crisis will look back on their votes today with that same sort of wistful regret.