we understand the procedures and options described at The Next Hurrah
(Ron K.) and commented upon by The Decembrist
(Mark Schmitt) about the impending nuclear option. Here is a rough outline:
Democrats filibuster Owen.
Frist asks Cheny if filibusters are out of order.
Cheney says yes.
Reid challenges that ruling.
The challenge is a debatable topic (i.e. filibusterable)
Frist challenges Reid's challenge.It's not clear what will happen at this point. The Senate could stay in this state - debating the legitimacy of Cheney's ruling - or it could move in two directions, depending on what the Republican "compromisers" decide to do.
Puts it to a 'table' motion.
- If the tabling motion passes, Frist wins the issue(s).
- If Reid wins, all he gets is back to the challenge stage
You can view a flowchart of this situation (medium
, and large
I'm not sure there isn't an option to file a lawsuit with the courts if the debate is cut off without a formal changing of the filibuster rule.
One however hates to rely on the same five activist judges who ruled in favor of Republicans in Bush v. Gore. On the other hand, a couple of those Republicans are Justices Kennedy and O'Connor, who are Ripon Society Republicans from the 1960s and 1970s who were fond of the filibuster against liberal commies who they saw as wanting to take their money. They may want to save the stop gap and tell the Senate, "If you want to kill the filibuster, then follow your rules and do it through your already in place procedures."
Maybe I'm all wet here, but that's how I see things.
Wait a minute. If we read this right, the real choke point isn't any motion to change the rules but the motion to table Reid's appeal.
If Frist gets a party-line vote on that, he gets Owen confirmed without a rule change. Looks like he can dodge this whole bullet.
I was fairly inthe dark about the byzantine nature of Senate rules until I read Robert Caro's "Master of the Senate". Caro's thesis is that Lyndon Johnson was a political genius partly because of his mastery of these byzantine rules including the filibuster rule and Rule 22 which the South used to great effect to block the end of jim crow. Few if any have come close to Johnson's virtuosic skills in the use and application of the Senate rules.
What our host has demonstrated is how the nuclear option may be more like setting off a nuclear chain reaction in which no one knows the outcome for certain because no one knows how the rules (which contradict each other) might be played out. In other words, things could get out of control.