A change in the rules by a bare majority aimed at benefiting Democrats today could just as easily be used to benefit Republicans tomorrow. Do Democrats really want to create a situation where, two or four or six years from now, they are suddenly powerless to prevent Republicans from overturning legislation they themselves worked so hard to enact?For two years, Democrats in Congress have hoped their large majorities would make it easy for them to pass extremely partisan legislation. Now that they've lost an election, they've decided to change the rules rather than change their behavior. They should resist the impulse. Democrats should reflect on what they have done to alienate voters, not double down on the approach that got them here.
According to a senior Republican aide, McConnell will use the occasion of his session-opening speech in a few minutes to further lambaste the plan. Here's what the GOP believes will happen next:
"We’re expecting speeches from Tom Udall (D-NM) and potentially Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), all of whom may offer their own proposals for rules changes. Then, this afternoon, we expect Reid to put the Senate in recess (thus keeping us on the first legislative day) until January 24."
(Roll Call explains the reasoning: “The two-and-a-half-week ‘day’ is intended to buy the party some time to come up with a rules change proposal they can actually get behind while simultaneously trying to avert a major partisan showdown.”)
Meanwhile, liberal columnist Ruth Marcus also cautions Senate Democrats against gutting the filibuster, warning against the unintended consequences of tinkering with rule change precedent:
[Democrats] should be careful what they wish for....UPDATE: Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson is throwing cold water on the rule change scheme:
Imagine the start of the 113th Congress in January 2013. House Speaker John Boehner's first act, once again, is to repeal what he calls "Obamacare." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, invoking the Udall precedent, moves to change the rules to eliminate the filibuster, and his caucus - over howls from the Democratic minority - agrees. The Republican Senate then votes to repeal the health-care bill, which is promptly signed . . . by President Palin.
“The last thing we need to do is start changing rules, with 51 votes and simple majority, and make the Senate a smaller version of the House,” Nelson said. Filibusters are not allowed in the U.S. House, where majority rules.UPDATE II: Here's the full text of Senate Democrats' proposed filibuster reforms, via TPM.