Most people who have game-planned the opening few months of the Trump era have come to the conclusion that if the new president and congressional Republicans can reach agreement on a legislative agenda and appointments, they will take every precaution to make sure the Democratic congressional minority cannot do a thing to stop it.
Much of the work of crushing the minority can be done via the budget reconciliation process, which provides for fast-track procedures, an up-or-down vote on giant packages of legislation, and invulnerability to a Senate filibuster. Paul Ryan calls reconciliation a “bazooka in my pocket,” and rightly so.
Sometimes logic, though, does not entirely take into account the crotchety views of crotchety old senators. And so the path to a nuclear winter in the Senate is for the moment being blocked by its most senior Republican, president pro tempore Orrin Hatch of Utah:
“Are you kidding?” he said with some vehemence. “I’m one of the biggest advocates for the filibuster. It’s the only way to protect the minority, and we’ve been in the minority a lot more than we’ve been in the majority. It’s just a great, great protection for the minority.”
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has also just this week called any effort to kill the filibuster a “horrible, terrible idea.”
Since it will take 50 Republican votes plus a tie-breaking vote from Mike Pence to invoke the nuclear option, Hatch and Graham represent all the opposition the idea can handle.
Now it’s possible the two rebels (and potentially others) can be herded back in line if Mitch McConnell decides the filibuster must go. They’d also be subjected to lobbying from powerful Republican constituency groups like the anti-abortion movement that would ignite the whole Constitution in a moment if it was necessary to get a couple of justices on the Supreme Court who would reverse Roe v. Wade. And for all I know, Hatch and Graham are just making sure they are the first in line for any goodies to be handed out by the administration in exchange for playing ball.
But clearly Senate Republican resistance is going to represent some choppy water in what might otherwise be smooth sailing for the GOP. What it means most immediately is that when it comes time to write that big, bad budget reconciliation bill, Paul Ryan’s going to get out a shoe horn and squeeze in as much conservative legislation as possible.