Progressive interest in reforming the filibuster reached its apogee, naturally enough, back in 2009-2010 when the Senate Republican minority’s ability to filibuster was the main impediment to progressive reforms. But this winter really might be the best time to make the change. In part that’s because several new Senators, including Chris Murphy and Angus King have already said they want reform.
But it’s also because the partisan stars are aligned correctly for it at a time when the Senate Republicans minority isn’t the main impediment to progressive reform. With the GOP firmly in control of the House of Representatives, filibuster reform won’t entail card check or cap and trade or any other huge legislative initiatives. What it will mean instead is simply that Barack Obama’s appointees get confirmed. That would be good for America. But it’s also something that I think both parties can accept. Given the ability to randomly obstruct executive appointments, naturally Senators are going to want to do it. But neither party gains systematic advantage from this practice and it’s not what anyone in the Senate came to Washington to do. It’s just one of these downward spirals that we need to pull out of. A time when a Democratic president has just been re-elected and a Republican House has also just been re-elected is an ideal time for the Senate to de-escalate a bit.