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Republicans Respond to Vote Against Delay with More Delay

It’s pretty clear that Republicans intend to use last week’s non-nuclear option as a pretext to subvert the filibuster once and for all when they get a majority in the Senate. But that’s a year or more off, so instead, they will retaliate with a series of delay tactics:

Republican aides say their bosses will now be even more reluctant to allow the Senate to conduct routine business by unanimous consent, forcing Reid to gather 60 votes for even the most mundane matters.

“Reid fired a major salvo and it’s hard to imagine a return shot won’t be fired. Maybe over the weekend they’ll come up with something and try to make it less worse than it already is,” said a Senate GOP leadership aide […]

Eric Ueland, who served as chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), also predicted repercussions.

“Usually if you set off a nuke, you’re responsible for the fallout,” he said. “There’s likely to be fallout here to the extent members on either side of the aisle feel this new gag rule impedes their ability to legislate. That has ramifications down the line.”

The fake drama is Tony Award-worthy. The “nuclear option” triggered here has no bearing on any obstructionist tactic employed by Republicans on the specific bill in question (the Chinese currency bill) or in general terms. It doesn’t impede anyone’s ability to legislate, and really doesn’t impede the ability to even obstruct. It merely stopped a vote that would have failed in timely fashion anyway. Reid did it to protect his members from taking the vote, but also to hint that his party has had enough with the dilatory tactics. There is no “gag rule,” as clearly evidenced by the Senate GOP’s desire to make the chamber less functional as a result.

It should be interesting to see how the GOP approaches this in the near term. The Chinese currency bill already has cleared cloture, so that final vote is assured. Then the jobs bill will come up, and as evidenced by their tactics all last week, Republicans WANT a vote on that. Same for the so-called free trade agreements, which should clear the Senate Finance Committee and the House by the middle of the week. So while Republicans really want to respond to the non-nuclear option with delay in general, on the specifics they’d like the Senate to move forward. So that should be humorous.

For their part, the White House came out in favor of the non-nuclear option in pretty broad terms:

“Well, I don’t know the particulars or the arcane details [of Senate parliamentary procedure],” Carney said. “But I can say, yes, we think it’s generally a problem that the filibuster has become a tool that is applied so broadly to measures that normally require just a majority vote.”

I think it’s clear that the filibuster’s days are numbered. We’ve now seen a path to set new precedent under the rules by majority vote. Republicans are sure to use that to their advantage. Until then, they’ll try to gum up the works.

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David Dayen

David Dayen