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July 08, 2013 10:59 AM Don’t Back Down, Harry!

By Ed Kilgore

Tomorrow the Senate Democratic Caucus will begin formal discussion of its option for dealing with actual or imminent Republican obstruction of presidential nominations, mostly via abuse of the filibuster power. It has been anticipated that the off-record talks would focus on the scope of a revived filibuster reform effort (most likely limited to confirmation votes, and perhaps even excluding judicial confirmations), and how Democrats will deal with Republican (or bipartisan) “compromise” offers.

If a Politico piece today from Burgess Everett is any indication of the Senate zeitgeist, this second issue is going to be where the deal goes down. While Harry Reid appears to have a majority of Senators in place for some sort of rules-change action, it’s unclear the majority will hold once Republicans let another nominee or two past the filibuster gate, and/or promise to abuse the filibuster less in the future. Everett’s piece is full of Republican quotes on how Senate GOPers have already eased up by allowing votes on some judges and two noncontroversial Cabinet nominees (Penny Pritzker and Anthony Foxx). And then there is the constant specter of another “Gang” that will work out some deal like the one reached by Reid and Mitch McConnell back in January that did almost nothing to curtail filibusters.

So the big question is whether Reid is willing and/or able to pull off some genuine change in the freedom of minorities to obstruct action in the Senate, or settles for ad hoc concessions that have zero impact on the behavior of the GOP in the future. If you are a strong proponent of the former course of action, today would be a real good time to let Democratic senators—particularly such past protectors of “Senate traditions” as Carl Levin and Reid himself—know about it.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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