Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)

Once again after spending weeks threatening to fix the Senate’s insane rules it looks like Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will back down after a last minute deal. Instead of simply using the nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster on executive branch nominees and approving seven stalled nominees, Reid has tentatively agreed to a complex face saving move to get most of what he wanted.

The broad outline of the deal is that the Senate would approve five of the nominees and would promise to quickly approve two future nominees to the National Labor Relation Board. Republicans complain that the two current recess appointees are illegal.

It is frankly silly and a bit pathetic that that the Democrats are agreeing to a “deal” to simply get the majority of what Democrats already had the power to get on their own. There is no need for a deal when one side holds all the cards even if the deal is mostly a win for that side.

That said this incident again demonstrates that the filibuster is not and has never been an actual hurdle for a determined majority. At any time the simply majority of Senate can change the rules to eliminate the filibuster. Merely making a serious threat to change the rules is often enough to get the minority to stop their delay tactics because they know they can’t actually stop a determined majority.

The basic lesson from this incident should always be remembered. Repeatedly during President Obama’s first two years Democrats blamed their failure to approve top campaign promises, like immigration reform and climate change legislation, on a possible Republican filibuster. In reality the sole reason these laws were not approved is because Democrats were unwilling to really fight for them. Democrats could have just threatened to use the nuclear option like they did today.

Photo by Center for American Progress Action Fund released under Creative Commons License