Well, we avoided the nuclear option. The filibuster is not going anywhere — today. But on the scale of dysfunction, the Senate is creeping from the Borgia family to the Bluth family. (Then again, the Borgia family sometimes accomplished things, so perhaps not.)
On Tuesday, there was a long meeting in the Old Senate Chamber. The Republican minority and Democratic majority emerged with a bold compromise — to do what the Democratic majority wanted. As Molly Ball of the Atlantic quipped on Twitter, “When I wanted a cat & my husband didn’t, we compromised & got cats. This is a ‘compromise’ like that.” This is like when you agreed to give someone your lunch and he agreed not to remove your arm, except John McCain was there.
The Senate avoiding the nuclear option raises a question: Are we entering a new era of civility? This nuclear standoff, as some have already pointed out, is a big step up from the kind of violence that usually happens in the Old Senate chamber. The last time someone got drubbed out of lunch there, Charles Sumner was being caned, literally, by Preston Brooks; soon afterward, the nation collapsed in civil war. (Then again, some would argue that that was still a comparatively productive legislative session; at least they managed to pass the Guano Islands Act.*)
Or is “compromise” becoming one of those words or phrases — like “my friend” — that means something different and unpleasant when uttered in the Senate? Like “convenience” in the phrase “convenience fee”? After all, the Senate has a long tradition of passive-aggressive behavior. It used to be that you had to decode what people were saying because they at least made an effort to sound polite.
For example, here are things senators say and what they mean:
My Esteemed Friend and Colleague — This Moron Blowhard Over Here
My Esteemed Friend — This Man Reminds Me Of A Dead Weasel But I’d Actually Have Lunch With A Dead Weasel
My Respected Friend — This Man Is What Reverend Spooner Would Have Called A Shining Wit. Look It Up Yourself
My Friend — This ****er
But now the aggression barely qualifies as passive. In fact, it might actually be the reverse. Put 98 senators in a room together, and they can actually reach an agreement. Insert cameras and Twitter and suddenly everyone is spending the better part of their afternoons issuing loud denunciations, lest they be accused of having drunk the D.C. Kool-Aid, and you get — well, what we’ve been getting so far.
Now the translation goes the other way:
Turd-Blossom — My Esteemed Friend and Colleague
American Satan — Other Member From My State Who’s Actually Quite Pleasant When We See Each Other At The Airport
Moron Socialist — This Guy Has Adorable Kids And Seems To Take Great Care Of Them, And One Time We Were Both At A Barbecue And It Wasn’t Terrible
Deranged Loose Cannon — I Have Always Tremendously Admired This Man’s Long Career In Public Service
Guano Island — I Would Give The Shirt Off My PAC To This Man
Asked about his Senate time, former senator Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) noted, “I miss it like an abscessed tooth.” So, possibly: “Basically not bad, although I could have done without the yelling.”
*This is what it sounds like. If you find an island with guano on it, you can claim the island, although the United States does not care what happens after the guano is exhausted. According to Wikipedia, Ernest Hemingway’s brother tried to use this to declare his sovereignty over a raft-island, but it did not work out for him.