IT WAS INEVITABLE that some crazy things would happen on Capitol Hill during the lame duck session, but a double filibuster is too much. Yet -- we've got one. A group of senators is using a filibuster in an attempt to block some vital amendments to the fair housing law. Two individual senators are using a separate filibuster -- simultaneously -- in an effort to block confirmation of a federal judge in New England.
This remarkable event in the history of the world's greatest deliberative body has occurred because filibusters have become courtly affairs. Gone is the era of cots and night sessions and competition to see who could speak for the longest time without collapsing of exhaustion. Nowadays, some senator starts what is called a filibuster, another files a cloture motion, and the Senate sometimes even moves on to other, non-controversial business until the time for a vote on cloture arrives.
This winter's dual filibuster has another peculiarity. The first half of it makes some sense for those who believe in this kind of legislative conduct and who want to keep the fair housing law weak. But the second half makes sense only for those who see a place in the Senate for personal aminosity and razor-sharp party politics.
The judicial nominee whose confirmation is being held up is Stephen Breyer, a former Harvard Law School professor who is counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee. His nomination is the only one the Democrats have tried to move out of the Judiciary Committee since the election. That's because it is supported not only by Mr. Breyer's chief sponsor, Sen. Kennedy, but also by the incoming committee chairman, Sen. Thurmond, and by President-elect Reagan's Senate watchdog, Sen. Laxalt.
This unusual triumvirate would normally prevail, but Sens. Morgan and Humphrey have, for quite different reasons, seized upon the filibuster as a way to beat it. Mr. Morgan opposes the nomination because Mr. Breyer was instrumental in the committee's rejection of a man Mr. Morgan wanted on the federal bench in North Carolina. Mr. Humphrey wants the nomination stopped because he thinks every presidential appointment should be saved for Mr. Reagan.
The two men's filibuster, like it's champion aimed at the fair housing law amendments, deserves to be shattered today. There are majorities in the Senate to pass the housing amendments and to confirm Mr. Breyer's nomination. They should be able to work their will.