The air is filled with Republicans claiming Democrats will rue the day they ended the filibuster for lower-level federal judicial appointments. They say once they control the White House and Senate (no earlier than 2017, if then) they will up the ante.
They’ll end the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations and legislation. They’ll appoint a slew of Scalia clones, repeal Obamacare, junk the EPA, end wage protections for public works projects, et cetera, et cetera.
Well, they can dream. But they still have this messy thing called democracy to worry about.
Some of those threats are more plausible. They probably will nominate a lot of right-wing judges. But then again, what else is new? They’ve been stacking the courts with right-wingers for decades. And they can usually get away with it because more voters are not constitutional law experts and don’t pay close attention. So, no additional harm done there.
When it comes to legislative threats, that’s a different story.
They can try to shred health reforms, environmental rules and wage standards. But recall that they have tried to go on conservative binges before, to no avail.
Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” revolution proved unpopular and fizzled out. George W. Bush’s assertions of a mandate to privatize Social Security were built on sand.
There are probably some right-wing issues on the margins where a lack of filibuster can allow a Republican Congress to sneak a bill through. But if they try to get far ahead of public opinion to ram through radical reforms or repeals, they simply won’t stay in power very long.
Some pundits are called the Democrats move a “power grab.” But it only will be perceived that way by voters if Democrats try to use that power to do something they don’t like. If all Democrats do is nominate mainstream center-left folks for judicial and executive appointments, it’s not grabbing any power that people didn’t think they should have in the first place.
However, if Republicans think that this will give them license to go wild when it’s their turn, well, we have elections to take care of that.