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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Matt Yglesias has a good post explaining why it's not merely special pleasing when liberals and progressives argue to abolish the filibuster after making use of it during the Bush years when we were in the minority. (It's especially not special pleading on Matt's part, who, if I remember correctly, opposed the filibuster even when it was saving us from unbridled Bushism. He was more or less wrong then—we needed it badly—but he's pretty much right now.)

As Matt notes, the filibuster has moved from a comparatively rare measure of last resort to the first option on the table, leading to a widening perception that it does or should take 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate. There are three plateaus on the chart: the Reagan/Bush years, the Clinton-and-then-Bush-2 years, and the post-2006 pre-post-Bush environment. We can draw two conclusions from this:

1) Republicans are driving this movement, as the leaps in intensity correspond to moments of Republican Party weakness (the 1990s, 2006-2008);
2) there are way too many filibusters nowadays.

What we need to do, of course, is abolish the Senate entirely. But failing that we need to weaken the filibuster significantly. As a procedural loophole it can function as an important minoritarian protection, as it did against the ideological extremism of the GOP over the last decade—but it can remain so only in a context in which it is not being used routinely. Either the Republicans reign in the obstructionism or the Democrats reign it in for them.

Meanwhile, no one outside the Beltway cocktail circuit has any use for the Republican party.