I think many of the rule changes being floated by Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado make a whole heck of a lot of sense. I think it's insane that you need 60 votes to even bring a debate to the floor in the Senate, and why we haven't barred secret holds on legislation already is entirely beyond me.
But the wisdom of pushing for these common sense rule changes might be derailed by the overkill path the Democrats are using to get there.
It was only a few short years ago that Democrats were railing against Republicans when they were openly considering changing Senate rules so judicial nominees could no longer be filibustered. Now they are the ones inviting scorn by considering changes that would have a much bigger effect on how things work in the Senate.
These nuclear options would be best looked at as mutually assured partisan insanity, the equivalent to mutually assured destruction between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. during the cold war. Unfortunately, all they seem to care about is the next two years, instead of how this short-sighted power grab could lead to disaster in years to come.
Luckily, it's not clear that the Democrats could muster even the 50 votes necessary among their own members to pass rule changes like this. Ben Nelson, moderate U.S. Senator from Nebraska, told the Omaha World Herald that, "The last thing we need to do is start changing rules, with 51 votes and simple majority, and make the Senate a smaller version of the House." Living in Nebraska, I see Nelson facing down a very difficult election in 2012, and he is sure to not be the only Democrat in the Senate that sees voting for this as a potential liability.
But if they aren't able to muster the 67 votes necessary to make Udall's suggested changes, and they are able to rewrite the rules so changes like this could be made through simple majority vote, would it really be a disaster?
I think predicting disaster might even be an understatement. Imagine what would happen if the GOP, as is likely, takes back the Senate in 2012. Add to this the distinct possibility that Obama may not be occupying the White House, and come January of 2013, they could use the simple majority rule change out for a spin and get rid of the filibuster altogether. Just as many of the health care reforms that are popular will begin to be implemented, they could dismantle it piece by piece.
Now, imagine the same scenario set to every major piece of legislation.
The pendulum of the electorate has been swinging back and forth between the parties more and more in recent times. Imagine the nightmare of seeing issues like Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal, financial reform, gun legislation, abortion and sex ed, labor relations, much less entitlement reforms and military spending, seeing significant changes every few years.
The Senate filibuster rules provide a buffer against such drastic shifts in the political winds. Making it much easier to modify these rules is much like playing catch with Pandora's Box, and with how Democrats responded to the nuclear option just a few years ago, is yet another example of rank partisan hypocrisy.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.