Nuclear Disarmament

Matt Yglesias reports that the GOP is getting ready to go nuclear on judicial filibusters, thus baiting Democrats into shutting down the Senate, which in turn would...hell, I'll let Matt tell it:

I had to read that a couple of times until I got it. But now I see what the Senator meant. He means that he and his colleagues don't like being stuck between the president's pressure to endorse his plan, and the public's pressure not to pass his plan. The ideal way out of the impasse would be for the GOP to go nuclear on the filibuster issue, which will lead Democrats to shut down the Senate entirely, thus getting Republican Senators off the hook. To the White House and the privateer money bags they can say, "hey! we would have passed it if it hadn't been for those Democrats" and to the voters they can say, "hey! I never voted for any such thing."

It seems weird, but when I read this, my first instinct was: Don't shut down anything. Let 'em do it.

There's an episode of West Wing, which I love like Kevin Drum loves 24, where the president can't get the GOP congress to move on a budget deal. The Speaker offers him a compromise deal, but he balks, the government gets shut down, and his approval ratings tank. Instead of taking the compromise, the president gets on TV, and walks down Penn Ave. from the White House to the Hill and back. (It's actually a little more complicated than that.) It changes the entire dynamic of the conflict: The public no longer sees him as dragging his feet on a budget, but as leading, and the Speaker is forced to cave into some of his demands. Later, he explains to the Speaker why he wouldn't take the compromise: "I'm not going to negotiate with anyone who holds a gun to my head!"

Think about this. I consider the odds of social security actually passing the House or the Senate to be lowish. But really, the only thing saving the GOP from complete armageddon on this is the fact that Bush is just drifting around the country tossing out ideas. It's also the only thing stopping Dems from completely bludgeoning them with it: There's nothing there to bludgeon them with. Yet. But forcing them to codify this plan, at the same time as they bring it from the realm of the hypothetical to the realm of Now All Your Benefits Are Gone seems like the worst of all possible worlds to them.

But more to the point, this whole nuclear thing has been a gun to our head, and we shouldn't bargain with it. Social security, an issue on which a little offense can actually gain us some serious ground for midterms, is the perfect opportunity to forget the whip count altogether and engage the public debate. Let 'em pull the nuclear trigger. We'll propose our own brilliant, moderate plan, and when it doesn't pass anyway, we'll hit the road on the biggest media blitz this nation has ever seen. Let everyone know who tried to fix social security, and who tried to kill it. Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi will be pleased.

I'm probably missing something huge here. But the GOP plan is already drowning in social security. Why not throw the bastards an anvil?

- Daniel A. Munz

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