Friday, July 30, 2010

Oh The Things You Can Filibust!

Matthew Yglesias claims dropping the filibuster is just a matter of when, not if.
The only reason filibustering has been allowed for as long as it has has been because of strong norms against its over-use. But those norms have been eroding for decades. The idea that Senate majorities are going to allow this trend to continue indefinitely is silly. The way this movie goes is that the downward spiral of obstruction continues until some majority gets sick of it and changes the rules.
Do a little backward induction and you'll find that doesn't hold. Knowing too much abuse will lead to the filibuster going away completely and permanently so senators have a strong incentive to push far and no farther. There's a cautious exploratory process going on by Republicans, but extrapolating mindlessly from the current trend isn't near enough to claim this strategy is on the way out.

And let's not forget retaliation: dropping the filibuster means you can't use it later when you might need it. And senators are reelected more often: those safe seats know a vote to drop the filibuster now is a vote to deny them an important political tool later. If we added some term limits that would help drop the filibuster, but it's just too versatile to expect to witness its passing any time in the foreseeable future.

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