What every progressive needs to learn is that political things don’t just happen because someone wants them to. They happen when a majority is ready to vote to make them happen.
Back in January, as many of you will recall, I took a lot of heat because I stood up for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his valiant attempt to change filibuster rules. The man worked his ass off to make changes, and he actually got quite a few of them, despite the fact that he didn’t have 51 votes to make them happen. He was able to change the rules, so that Senators could no longer put a blind hold on a nomination – they had to make themselves known – and he also got an agreement from Republicans to stop holding up nominations. This was a crucial deal. He did all of this, despite the fact that he had between 45 and 47 votes, because he was able to convince the Republican leadership that he had 51, which scared them silly.
The reason he didn’t have enough votes is simple, and it falls right into the laps of that small but loud group of progressives who think they know more than everyone else about politics, even though they’re always wrong, and they undermine the progressive cause constantly.
A number of Democrats were skittish about killing the filibuster altogether because they feared being in the minority again beginning in 2015, and not having that tool at their disposal. It’s a rational fear, especially after what happened in 2010. They were 2-3 seats away from having a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, which meant they would have been able to preserve the filibuster and just change the rules. But then, that certain group of progressives (who think of themselves as the Democratic base, even though they rarely vote for Democrats) trashed Obama and Democrats mercilessly. In the 111th Congress, the House passed 375 bills that were blocked by a Senate MINORITY, because of Senate rules. Yet, these “progressive political junkies” chose to attack Blue Dogs, who were NOT the problem. In doing so, Blue Dogs lost in droves, and were replaced by teabaggers. What was galling was the way these so-called progressives crowed about it afterward, claiming it was some sort of “silver lining” or some such nonsense. If you saw defeating Blue Dogs, replacing them with teabaggers and basically making progressives in Congress a minority of a minority as a positive, I can’t begin to tell you how stupid you are, politically speaking.
Anyway, it was that loss in 2010 that haunted Democrats in January of this year, and that is what prevented Reid from making major changes in the filibuster, or killing it altogether back then. In other words, all of those “progressives” who were raking Reid over the coals mercilessly back in January were largely responsible for his inability to get the 51 votes he needed. But even then, he got a deal. And it was that deal that led to what happened today, when Harry Reid did away with the filibuster on presidential nominations, which should end the logjam that has plagued the government for the last four years.
Republicans broke their deal, which Reid knew would happen when he made it. Democrats also have a little more confidence that they’ll be able to keep a majority in the Senate and will take back the House, because of the government shutdown, and the fact that 144 Republicans voted to default on the debt. Also, the Republican Party proved that they cannot be trusted at their word, in a way that all Americans can understand.
What happened today was, Democrats asked to reconsider the nomination of Patricia Millett, which had previously failed, and it passed 57-40. After a couple of procedural moves by McConnell, Republicans filibustered her nomination again. It was then that Reid took a step that no one before him had ever had the guts to do, which means he knew he had the votes this time, and raised a point of order that when the Senate votes on cloture again, the threshold should be a simple majority. Under standing rules, the presiding officer ruled the motion out of order, but when Reid appealed the ruling, a majority of 52 (do I have to say they were all Democrats?) voted to scrap the filibuster altogether. That essentially kills the filibuster for all nominations for everything but those to the Supreme Court. It also doesn’t kill the filibuster for legislation, which is no big deal, since the GOP-led House effectively kills all legislation coming from the Senate, anyway.
By the way, McConnell tried to overturn that vote, and that also failed, 48-52. McConnell then reiterated his promise that he would end the filibuster for everything if the GOP ever gets a Senate majority again.
So, let’s do our best to make sure they never get that, shall we?
Progressives underestimate Harry Reid at our peril. This guy is tougher than he looks.