Milbank: 'The Democrats' naked power grab'

What does the loss of the filibuster mean? Liberal columnist for the Washington Post Dana Milbank nails it:

If Congress wasn't broken before, it certainly is now. What Reid (Nev.) and his fellow Democrats effectively did was take the chamber of Congress that still functioned at a modest level and turn it into a clone of the other chamber, which functions not at all. They turned the Senate into the House.

Democrats were fully justified in stripping Republicans of their right to filibuster President Obama's nominees - yet they will come to deeply regret what they have done.

Certainly, Republicans have abused the dilatory tactics that Senate minorities have, for centuries, used with greater responsibility; they seem intent on bringing government to a halt. And the Senate in 2013 is hardly a healthy institution. Yet it has achieved far more than the House - passing bipartisan immigration legislation and a farm bill and working out deals to avoid default and to end the federal government shutdown - largely because, until Thursday, Senate rules required the majority party to win votes from the minority.

Here's what then-Sen. Joe Biden said in 2005 when a Republican Senate majority threatened to use a similar "nuclear option" to allow a simple majority to carry the day:

"The nuclear option abandons America's sense of fair play . . . tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field. I say to my friends on the Republican side: You may own the field right now, but you won't own it forever. I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing."

That is the essence of what we have lost; protection for the political minority and a brake on the "tyranny of the majority." There are many issues where no Senate Republicans voted with the Democrats. But on those issues that the Democrats wanted desperately to bring to the floor for a vote, they were forced to make concessions to the GOP minority.

And Biden's words about the GOP not being in control forever should come back to haunt Harry Reid next November when the GOP has a decent shot at taking the Senate. At that point, with the anti-filibuster cat out of the bag, expect the GOP to expand the nuclear option to include just about anything. Right now, it's limited to Obama's judicial and executive branch nominees. The next flip of the Senate will see that concept expanded.

"Naked power grab," indeed.

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