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How To Nuke the Filibuster

If you want to nuke the filibuster then the best way to do so is on an issue where the public actually has your backside — which is not healthcare reform*. It’s hard to claim that the democratic system is broken when it’s blocking a measure that the majority of the public opposes.

Financial regulation, however, might be a good candidate. The numbers are very strong there and it’s one that Democrats, frankly, could stand to do a little bit of grandstanding on. It’s also one where plutocratic interests stand more manifestly in the way of the public good.

So, uh, table health care reform for now**, bring up the financial regulation bill which the House passed last week***, watch the cloture motion fail by 4-6 votes, nuke the filibuster, pass the bill, then come back and tackle health care in a 51-vote environment? Is that a good Plan B to get health care passed? No, it’s more like a really bad Plan X. But it’s worth a thought.


* I know, I know: the public option is popular. But — you have to be able to win the soundbyte war if you’re going to attempt this, because the public is going to be mighty confused, and will not inherently be disposed to supporting your procedural end-around (quite the opposite, polling suggests). And I just don’t think in that situation they’re going to be able to disentangle the public option from the overall health care morass.

** Or go ahead and bring it to the floor and watch it fail to achieve cloture; that works just as well, I guess.

*** And I mean specifically the House bill, which was somewhat center-left but which was nevertheless opposed universally by Republicans. Water it down too much, and then you might accidentally pass it under regular order. Make it too strong — try to re-implement Glass-Steagall, for example — and you’ll lose the support of the public (which wants to see banks regulated but not broken up) and possibly not get to 51 votes anyway. The House bill — which passed 223-202 — projects to be squarely in the middle of those 51- and 60-vote goalposts in the Senate while also potentially being quite popular with the public.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.