Re: What will happen in the post-nuclear wasteland on Capitol Hill?

The 'nuclear option': One thing you need to know
The 'nuclear option': One thing you need to know


    The 'nuclear option': One thing you need to know


The 'nuclear option': One thing you need to know 02:11

From: Chris Cillizza

Sent: April 6, 9:03 a.m.
To: Z. Byron Wolf
    Zach, the filibuster isn't going to die later today. But its condition is definitely going to be downgraded from "serious" to "grave."
    Democrats are going to block an end to debate on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is going to invoke the nuclear option, meaning Republicans will need only a simple majority to end debate and, some time on Friday, formally confirm Gorsuch to the nation's highest court.
    Most people -- if polls are to be believed -- don't care. And even many politicians are treating the nuclear option as a sort of natural progression to the increasing polarization in our politics.
    They're not wrong. But, I think undercutting the rules governing a filibuster are going to have major repercussions going forward. For the last 150 years (or so), the filibuster rule was what distinguished the Senate from the House. In the House, the majority rules. Period. In the Senate, there was -- until the last four years -- the requirement to find ways to work across the aisle to get judges and cabinet nominees confirmed. Senators may not have always liked that fact but it made for a very different bar to clear in the Senate than in the House.
    No more. And my strong suspicion is that we will be talking about the possibility of getting rid of the 60 vote threshold on legislation in the not-too-distant future.
    What say you?


    From: Z. Byron Wolf
    Sent: Thursday, April 6, 9:52 a.m.
    To: Chris Cillizza
    Chris, on the ultimate outcome, we agree. When (former Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid first triggered the nuclear option back in 2013, it started a nuclear chain reaction that brings us to today.
    Democrats undid the Senate rules for most nominations. Republicans are likely to extending that rule change to Supreme Court nominations. I don't know which party will go nuclear on legislation writ-large, but you can't undo nuclear. That's why (former Republican Senate leader) Trent Lott attached that name to the rule change idea. It would devastate the place.
    You're also right that most people don't care and at the end of the day, I'm not completely sure that they should. There's nothing about supermajorities in the US Constitution; It's a custom senators developed over the years.
    The root of what frustrates a lot of people about Washington isn't partisan bickering, it's inaction.
    Neither party is going to be able to effectively enact a platform in this 50-50, partisan country if they need 60-40 to get past the Senate.
    Is that going to lead to more partisan legislation? Yes, it is.
    Could it also lead to more movement in elections? It could.
    It will apply a lot more pressure on lawmakers. Fewer show votes in the House, where what they do will actually have the possibility of becoming law.


    From: Chris Cillizza
    Sent: Thursday, April 6, 10:42 a.m.
    To: Z. Byron Wolf
    1. I love a good Aaron Burr reference.
    2. "Nuclear chain reaction." I see what you did there.
    OK, now to your main point.
    I do think you're right that if EVERYTHING -- legislation, judges, presidential cabinets -- only needs a simple majority to be passed, more will get done. And every two years, voters will have very clear sense of what the Republican -- or Democratic -- majority has done. There won't be nearly as much debate over obstruction and how "we could have gotten so much done if not for those dastardly [Democrats/Republicans]."
    BUT. The voting public has proven one thing over the past 15 years or so: It's super fickle. George W. Bush narrowly wins and two years later Republicans controlled everything. By 2007, Democrats seized control of the House and Senate. A year later, they elected a Democratic president, handing them total control of the levers of power in Washington. But, by 2010, the country had reversed itself again -- handing the House to Republicans.
    My point is that the future of politics could look something like this: 1) Republican-controlled Congress enacts major piece of legislation 2) Voters elect Democrats to majorities in House and Senate 3) Democratic-controlled Congress worked to dismantle GOP-passed legislation.
    Wash. Rinse. Repeat.


    From: Z. Byron Wolf
    Sent: Thursday, April 6, 10:52 a.m.
    To: Chris Cillizza
    To your point about one party just undoing the other's actions -- how's that Obamacare repeal turning out?
    Now, I'll take your "Wash. Rinse. Repeat." and raise you a spin cycle. As in -- we go round and round and round and round and nothing ever gets done.
    Here's a real-world example: immigration reform.
    We've had two successive presidents from two different parties who both supported the idea of comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.
    (I'm not trying to re-litigate those ideas or whether they're still viable, so stand down on that.)
    But the point remains -- We've had George W. Bush (several times) and Barack Obama (once) BOTH try to pass the same kind of bill and both successively fail.
    For Bush, it died in the GOP-controlled Senate. For Obama, it died in the GOP-controlled House.
    Now, the American public supports a pathway to citizenship (according to the polls) and so did those two presidents. But it can't get done because of intractability. Democrats couldn't even do it with a supermajority in 2009. Well, if they'd done it before health care they could have, but I digress.
    In the post-nuclear wasteland, things will be enacted that about half the country hates. But then there will be repercussions, you'd think.


    From: Chris Cillizza
    Sent: Thursday, April 6, 11:26 a.m.
    To: Z. Byron Wolf
    You're not wrong.
    I just think that we lose something important to democracy when we create a system in which the only governing principle is majority rule. There is a reason that the Senate filibuster has existed for so long -- because it gives the minority party a real voice and forces the majority party to find ways to make compromises.
    I'm with John McCain when he was asked about people who said invoking the nuclear option was a good thing. "I would like to meet that idiot, I'd like to meet the numskull that would say that," McCain said. "That after 200 years, at least 100 years of this tradition, where the Senate has functioned pretty well, they think it would be a good idea to blow it up."
    I guess the key to that quote is what your definition of "pretty well" is. There's no question that the filibuster has been overused and abused in recent years. And that the Senate has slowed to a total crawl. But I'm not sure that dropping a nuclear bomb on the chamber is the right response.


    From: Z. Byron Wolf
    Sent: Thursday, April 6, 11:37 a.m.
    To: Chris Cillizza
    Fair enough and well put. Although I would quibble with McCain about the Senate functioning pretty well. That's up for debate.
    All of this is. And the world is not going to end. Can we talk for a sec about the word "nuclear."
    As I sit here, they're voting to change the Senate rules. They're GOING NUCLEAR!
    You know what else is going on? They're trying to develop nuclear weapons in North Korea. We're in the midst of an actual nuclear standoff and watching a rhetorical nuclear explosion.
    They have a tendency to overbloviate in the Senate. And right now they're overstating the consequences, I think. We've all seized on this idea because that's an incredibly good catchphrase -- nuclear -- but at the end of the day, this is not an explosion, it's a rule change.
    This is like adding instant replay in the NFL. It's going to be very different, but it's the same basic game.