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Losing a few Democrats in the Senate Might be a Good Thing for Democracy

Ok, so I know that headline is something that would make most Progressives and Democrats howl that I’ve gone all Rightie on them. Let those people howl.

But we have twice now in the last five years found members of the majority party discussing openly the possibility of changing the “filibuster rules,” to make it harder or even impossible to filibuster a bill. The latest is Senator Dick Durbin just yesterday. I am hardly a fan of the filibuster as a general rule, but it seems to me that the drama surrounding its use these days is largely manufactured and more a product of the state of the Senate over the last ten years or so than a real tactic.

It is doubtful to me that there is anyone in the Senate with the fortitude to manage a filibuster for real. Nevertheless, the idea of staying up past nine o’clock without the aid of cocaine and hookers seems to strike fear into the hearts of Democrats and Republicans alike, regardless of whether or not the monster under the bed actually exists. The question is therefore not whether or not anyone will stay up past their bedtimes to block the majority party’s agenda but whether the majority party has the votes to stop it if it did happen. “It” being the filibuster that probably will not actually happen, but the media and the Senate insists *is* happening over and over again.

If the Senate was down to a 55/45 split or even a 51/49 split, breaking a filibuster would be nearly impossible. Since the hypothetical filibuster is at this point unbreakable, the Senate is forced to consider the alternative: that reality might be preferable to fantasy, and majority vote might very well be all that is required.

Would the majority party continue to insist that they require 60 votes to get anything done in this case? Would we effectively have a complete government shut-down because of hypotheticals? Perhaps temporarily. But it won’t take long for folks up there to realize that, without bills to point to, they won’t have much to show their constituencies come the next election.