In a now-familiar routine in Washington, lawmakers walked right up to the brink of disaster Monday, only to pull back Tuesday. This time, though, the source of the drama was the Senate, where Majority Leader
Reid relented Tuesday morning after Republicans agreed not to block votes on President
That's not only the right result, it's the predictable one. Or at least it should have been predictable. Sharp disagreements lead to difficult negotiations, which means no concessions until the very last minute. The main difference now is that lawmakers seem to be amping up the threats in their search for leverage. Republicans threaten to shut down the government or stiff some of the government's creditors if they don't get their way on budget cuts. Democrats threaten to let all temporary tax breaks expire if the GOP won't agree to raise taxes on the highest incomes.
If you have faith in the legislative process, it's easy to shrug off the threats. But if you worry that lawmakers put ideology ahead of comity and country, you're more likely to believe it's just a matter of time before the worst threats become reality.
Ending the filibuster wouldn't be as bad as defaulting on the debt, not by a long shot. But it would have so infuriated Republicans, they probably would have used every delaying tactic in the rulebook to stop Senate from accomplishing anything of substance until after the 2014 elections. And as slowly as the Senate moves today, at least it's still moving.
One reason the GOP would have been so aggrieved is that it would have taken some procedural jujitsu, if not outright rule-bending, to change the filibuster rule by a majority vote instead of the two-thirds normally required to change Senate rules. That's why the technique has long been called the "nuclear option" -- the collateral damage would have been profound.
And yet it's hard not to blame the GOP for setting this fight in motion. Although filibusters and other delaying tactics grew increasingly common when Democrats were in the Senate minority in the mid-2000s, they've become routine since then. Minority Leader