President Joe Biden showed a little leg on changing the filibuster in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News the other night, while almost every Senate Democrat wants to ditch it. Even Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who still supports the filibuster, said a couple of weeks ago that resorting to it should be more "painful."
The Democrats probably remain a few votes shy of really being able to trash the filibuster, which would require the support of every Democrat in the caucus (plus, Vice President Kamala Harris as the 51st vote), but they are steadily talking themselves into curtailing or abolishing the filibuster as a political and moral necessity.
This would be a mistake, both for the institution of the Senate and for the narrow partisan interests of the Democrats.
One would think that the experience that the party had the last time it took a hatchet to the filibuster would warn it off any repeat, but institutional memories aren't exactly long in Washington these days.
In 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blew up the filibuster for most presidential nominations. No longer would it take a cloture vote passed with the support of 60 senators to confirm nominees, rather a simple majority. Reid did this against the warnings of then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell because he and the Democrats had worked themselves into a lather to confirm Obama nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Biden open to bringing back talking filibuster SharePlay Video Supporters of the move relied on a misleading accounting of filibusters to argue Republican tactical extremism justified the move. Regardless, the Democratic majority got its way and, then, in due time, paid the price.
It's a cliche for senators who support the filibuster to say that control of the body inevitably changes. So today's triumphant, inflamed majority tempted to ditch the filibuster is tomorrow's embattled, desperate minority using it to wield influence that it otherwise wouldn't have.
This is a piece of conventional wisdom that happens to be completely true.
Three years after Reid's move, McConnell was majority leader and Donald Trump president. McConnell took Reid's change and used it to render Democrats bystanders as he transformed the federal judiciary. Trump got about as many nominees on federal appellate courts in four years as Obama did in eight.
Then, when Democrats filibustered Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court, McConnell used the Reid precedent to end the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are now on the Supreme Court as a result.