By The Washington Post
In the spring of 2005, Senate Democrats were in an uproar. Republicans, infuriated over what they perceived as the Democratic minority’s abuses of the filibuster to block judicial nominees, were threatening to deploy the so-called nuclear option: changing the filibuster rules by a simple majority vote, rather than requiring the 67 votes ordinarily required for a rules change.
“The current Senate majority intends to do what the majority in the Senate has often done use its constitutional authority … To reform Senate procedure by a simple majority vote,” Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at the time.
In the end, the explosion was defused, with an agreement brokered by the so-called Gang of 14 not to filibuster judges except in extraordinary circumstances.
Now, the tables are turned. Democrats are in the majority and chafing at Republican abuse of the filibuster.
As we said seven years ago, the filibuster has been abused and is in need of reform. As we also said, using the nuclear option is the wrong way to achieve those changes.
Republicans argue this seemingly minor reform would infringe on their rights because it would reduce their leverage to be guaranteed the right to offer amendments. This argument seems overblown; after all, the minority would retain the right to filibuster the underlying legislation unless their amendments were considered.
Mr. McConnell – that is, Mr. McConnell of 2012 – is on stronger ground when he warns about setting a dangerous precedent for breaking the rules to change the rules that Democratic colleagues will have to endure when they are next in the minority. Before going nuclear, Mr. Reid ought to try, again, to negotiate. Surely the two leaders could craft a set of bipartisan rules changes that would ease gridlock while being tolerable to whatever side, in a future Congress, finds itself in the minority.