The GOP Revs the Filibuster Machine Back Up

The post-filibuster era of good feeling in the Senate is done.

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FBI director nominee James Comey Jr. prepares for his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill July 9, 2013 in Washington.

Well, the post-filibuster era of good feeling in the U.S. Senate is grinding to a quick halt.

As Politico's Burgess Everett put it over the weekend: "Welcome back to filibuster city." According to Everett's story, "there's already a queue forming of new Obama nominees, and Republicans aren't about to lay down and let this group go through." Atop the list is Rep. Mel Watt's nomination to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Other high profile nominations that could become filibuster fights, according to Politico, include FBI nominee James Comey, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms nominee Todd Jones and whoever Obama wants to succeed Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security.

Last week there was much rejoicing in Washington when the Senate cut a deal avoiding – at least momentarily – the filibuster fight that had been building up over the last few months. In short, Republicans have dramatically increased their use of the filibuster to slow down, well, everything; in response, Democrats had threatened to change the rules of the Senate to disallow the use of the filibuster for executive branch appointments.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

So a rump group of GOP senators, including John McCain of Arizona, went around GOP leader Mitch McConnell and cut the deal whereby a group of nominees were given a vote, and in exchange Democrats forewent the so-called "nuclear option" of changing Senate rules. This, as my colleague Susan Milligan writes in the current issue of U.S. News Weekly, led to a burst of bipartisan optimism that perhaps the old Senate was reasserting itself and the mindless partisanship and reflexive obstruction might be finished.

Not so much. Per Politico:

In the words of the Senate's No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas: "We are where we were before. Which is: It takes 60 votes."

[VOTE: Do the Senate's Filibuster Rules Have to Go?]

The publication also quotes GOP Sens. John Thune of South Dakota, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rand Paul of Kentucky to various degrees keeping the filibuster option open and a couple of Democrats hoping for the best but noting that, as Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said, "a rules change is absolutely on the table."

The Democratic response to Cornyn's comment might well be: We are where we were before, which is: We can – and will – change the 60 vote requirement. It's clear, as if anyone doubted it, that last week's deal delayed but did not defuse the Senate's "nuclear" confrontation.

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