January 19, 2013
Senate Filibuster Reform, Interesting Times

Well, it certainly looks like we face an interesting week ahead of us.

“Before I left England for China in 1936 a friend told me that there exists a Chinese curse — “May you live in interesting times”. If so, our generation has certainly witnessed that curse’s fulfillment.”

- Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen, Diplomat in Peace and War, 1949 

Beyond the obvious theater of Mondays inauguration (and the associated reduced expectations spin management), we may or may not have discussion of Senate filibuster reform beginning 22 January (Tuesday)- maybe http://tinyurl.com/azmk364 .  Which is what has been troubling me on this sunny winter Saturday.

Would you carry me uphill
back the way I carried you?
Take me further, if you can,
(You know) I’d do the same for you.
Think this through with me,
let me know your mind,
Whoa-oh all I want to know is,
Will you be kind?

- Jerry Garcia, unpublished lyrics to “Uncle Johns Band”

Greg Sargent has repeatedly alerted us to the possibility that there will be no real filibuster reform in the Senate. What bothers me is, why Harry Reid seems to be managing filibuster reform  expectations downward. http://tinyurl.com/byut2uc

Here is how I see it, but I ask that you please help me to think this through. 

Let us start with the reasonable hypothesis that Harry Reid is a skilled and experienced political negotiator, and no pushover.  My sense is that Mitch McConnell would agree with that.  So, therefore, Harry probably looks at most or all strategic and tactical issues through the lens of risks and benefits.  So, why does he appear to be backing off of filibuster reform, while having “promised” filibuster reform after the election at least as early as July 2012 http://tinyurl.com/ac9kt6t ?

Why the switch? 

Last July, this was the position: “Reid’s office denies that he would have a change of heart if Democrats were in the minority. “He’d still advocate for his position, he just wouldn’t be in a position to do anything about it unless a bunch of Republicans suddenly have a change of heart,” says Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson. “His position won’t change. He’s convinced of the need for change.”

Taking a risk/benefit approach, it seems to me that either apparent benefits are less than he had thought, or the risks are greater.  Or perhaps the deal is already in the can, and he is just preparing us for the consequences.

Assuming for the sake of discussion that a deal is not already cooked, and because of my proclivity to see through a glass darkly in all things relating to US federal political Kabuki, it is the risk analysis that bothers me.  Particularly the potential risks associated with the Senate turning in 2014.

Nate Silver shares my pessimism (or more accurately, I share his) concerning Democratic prospects for turning the House Blue in 2014 http://tinyurl.com/cxx3gom

But Nate has yet to opine concerning Senate 2014 prospects.  On 09 November 2012, Aaron Blake provided a back of the napkin analysis concerning Democrat prospects for holding the Senate in 2014, and concluded that “Senate Democrats face a very tough 2014 map” http://tinyurl.com/byp36n8

Since that time, Republican intransigence concerning Susan Rice has yielded the tactical benefit that John Kerry’s otherwise safe seat is in play, and there may be other risks that Reid is aware of.

Is Harry Reid looking into a crystal ball and seeing risks which tip the balance?  He is an innately conservative (in the classical sense) individual- generally a cautious backroom player.  If so, it might be nice for the rank and file to know that now.  Continuing to pound my shoe on the lectern, as I see it, there are three overriding strategic priorities for the Democratic party if the opportunity of the 2012 election is not to be squandered.

  1.  Resolution of the backlog on Judicial appointments must be expedited by the Executive
  2. The Senate majority must be retained
  3. The House must be flipped to Blue

If Harry Reid sees the second of these as at significant risk, better that Democrats and other progressives know now while we still have a chance to mobilize and do something, rather than covering it up and only discussing during back room caucus whispers.

  1. cieloazure reblogged this from isaac-bickerstaff
  2. isaac-bickerstaff posted this