Majority Leader Harry Reid definitely got the better of the deal in the filibuster rules negotiation. The Republicans get the face-saving concession from Democrats of new National Labor Relations Board nominees, but have to agree in writing to not block those new nominees, whomever they may be. Why? The Republicans who shoved Mitch McConnell aside to make the deal weigh in.
Jokes aside, Alec McGinnis at The New Republic has another take from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TX). It boils down to the filibuster saving Republicans from themselves, should they be in the majority. With the filibuster, they won't turn into the House (senators really hate the House).
What’s at stake here is not just a change of the rule, it’s the way the rule is being changed. What it means is that with 51 votes, any majority can do anything it wants on any day in the United States Senate. It can change abortion rights. It can change civil rights. It can change environmental laws. It can change labor laws. Today, the House can do that, and when it comes to the Senate, we stop and think and consider. But after this, whoever has the majority can do anything it wants, on any day. That is a dangerous trend.Maybe more to the point, the filibuster is saving them from having to act on the demands of their base. It's an admission, much like Graham's and McCain's jokes, that their policies are unpopular and extreme and they need a reason not to pursue them. Pretty pathetic, really. But, of course, that's also a threat to Democrats: keep the filibuster or you don't know what crazy thing we might do. The admission that they know it's crazy and extreme, however, undercuts the threat a bit.
Now, for Democrats, Jed is absolutely right. They've made the Republicans blink. The fact that Harry Reid has refused to give up the nuclear threat and is keeping it in his pocket means that they've effectively killed the filibuster: as long as they remain willing to use this threat. That means anything that Republicans successfully block in the future will be because Democrats wanted it blocked. They'll be just as culpable, and won't be able to go back to whining about obstruction any more.
That means, as smart progressives like Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Bernie Sanders are saying even after this deal has apparently been struck, filibuster reform still has to happen. Now might be a very good time to resurrect the talking filibuster proposals from Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tom Harkin (D-IA). In retrospect, their proposals to maintain the filibuster, but just make people have to work for it, look pretty conservative and pretty reasonable.