Dear Dems: Stop threatening filibuster reform unless you really mean it

So Harry Reid and other Senate Dem leaders are again threatening to revisit filibuster reform, in response to a procedural move by a GOP Senator that blocked a vote from moving forward on the Senate Democratic plan to continue funding the government:

“It is things like that that will cause the Senate to have to reassess all the rules because right now they accomplish so little,” Reid said late Tuesday on the Senate floor. “I’m disappointed.”

Reid’s discovered that the agreement reached between the two parties as part of the weak filibuster reform deal earlier this year is not having the desired effect. And he’s threatening to revisit that deal. Steve Benen recaps just how little a difference that compromise has made:

What have we seen since? The first-ever filibuster of a cabinet nominee, a filibuster of a CIA nominee, and multiple threats of a filibuster against the Labor Secretary nominee. Republicans have filibustered judicial nominees they don’t like and judicial nominees they do like. GOP senators have promised to use filibusters to stop the Obama administration from enforcing the law as it relates to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and to stop the president’s nominee to lead the ATF and the EPA. [...]

How much more will Reid tolerate before more substantive reforms are back on the table? I look forward to finding out.

So do I. Indeed, at this point, I’d add that if Democratic leaders are not serious about revisiting reform, they should just stop with the idle threats already. They’re threatening to become counterproductive.

A Senate Democratic aide assures me Reid is genuinely serious about revisiting reform, and says Reid has had private, if informal, discussions with other Senate Dem leaders about how to do this. “It’s been raised,” the aide says. “People have discussed the possibility of doing more.”

The aide points out that Reid could not have gotten 51 votes in the Senate for more ambitious reforms via the so-called Constitutional option. Putting aside the failings of the bipartisan deal that was struck, this aide insists, it could be used as a foundation for more reform if GOP obstructionism continues — by making it easier to win over change-adverse Senators to support something more far reaching. “Having tried more incremental steps and having those fail could allow Reid to go to those who have been reluctant and say, `We tried the incremental approach,’” the aide says.

That’s good to hear, but look: If Dems are not going to revisit rules reform, just make that clear already. Empty threats just risk further angering Dem base voters who are already ticked about the filibuster reform punt earlier this year. Empty threats needlessly inflate expectations that Dems are finally going to take real steps to deliver to their supporters a functional Senate, one that is at least somewhat more capable of moving forward with the agenda so many of them worked so hard for in the last campaign.

Empty threats make Dems look weak and do nothing to discourage continued GOP obstructionism. If the status quo is really acceptable enough to Democratic leaders to forestall further action, they shouldn’t bother pretending otherwise. If this is the Senate we’re going to have to live with, Dems should just level with their voters on this point. No more feints and hints without real action.

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