Being a liberal means never having to say you're sorry [Updated with a note from Ezra]

Back in 2005, when the GOP kept getting frustrated by Democrat filibusters, the GOP came up with what they called the “constitutional option” to end the filibuster. Democrats and the media referred to it as the “nuclear option.”


Well, fast forward to today and lefty Ezra Klein is all in favor of the constitutional option.*

If you can’t manage the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, you can’t manage the 67 votes to change the rules and end the filibuster. At least in theory.

But in practice, there’s another path open to the Senate’s growing ranks of reformers: The so-called “constitutional option,” which is being pushed particularly hard by Sen. Tom Udall, but is increasingly being seen as a viable path forward by his colleagues.

Oh, Ezra. Were you a Republican we could call you a hypocrite. Here he is in 2005, writing about what he called a Republican “power grab.”

With these seven promising to vote against any more attempts to end the filibuster for the duration of this Congress, it seems like we got what we wanted — the preservation of the filibuster for the Supreme Court nominee. It seems, too, that the right didn’t get what they wanted — the end of the filibuster before Rehnquist retires.

More intriguing, Klein wants to take the filibuster a step further. In 2005, the GOP only wanted to do it for executive appointments. Everyone pretty much argued that it could not be done to kill the legislative filibuster. Not now. Klein wants to go all out and end the filibuster.

Liberals have such a short memory and no sense of history. If the GOP somehow manages to take back the Senate in 2010, you and I both know Ezra Klein will not continue holding on to this position.


*I got the following email from Ezra, who says he doesn’t “endorse” it, but is explaining how it works. Here’s his email:

It’s an explanation of how the constitutional option works, not an endorsement of it. As I wrote the day before, I’m pretty uncomfortable with that path. I think you owe me an update here.

“Democrats are going to lose a lot of seats in the next election. A “win” would be losing only quite a few seats. A loss would be losing one — or two — houses of Congress. Either way, voters are not likely to dramatically reaffirm their desire to be governed by Democrats.
But because the Senate isn’t very democratic, only a third of its members are up for reelection, and that blunts the damage that any single election can do. So Democrats are likely to start the next Congress with a majority, even if they lose the election quite badly. With sufficient unity, they could change the rules before work begins again. But it’ll be a pretty raw move: Neutering the opposition after the voters favored them at the polls is a bit hard to defend on principle, and it’s even harder when the principle in question is that the Senate should be governed democratically.

We are, however, getting closer and closer to the day when someone does change the rules. Republicans tried to protect judges from the filibuster under Sen. Bill Frist. Democrats are talking about changing the rules at the start of the 112th Congress. And now that they’re talking about it, are they really confident that if Republicans take the Senate back in 2012 or 2014, that they won’t do what the Democrats couldn’t and change the rules in their favor?


My oft-expressed preference is for Republicans and Democrats to figure something out jointly and set it into motion such that it either phases in over the next few years or begins six years from now, when we don’t know who’ll be in control. But if that’s not going to happen, then members of both parties have to be thinking: Do they really want to be the side the rules get changed on, rather than the side that changes the rules?”


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