POLITICO Mag: Schrödinger’s Filibuster

My latest piece in POLITICO Magazine on the Gorsuch, the filibuster, and mutually assured obstruction.

But saying Republicans have the political will to put Gorsuch on the court is different than saying there are 50 GOP senators who are otherwise prepared to end the filibuster. Their appetite is entirely a function of circumstance. Were Democrats to lay off Gorsuch, keeping their powder dry for the future and maintaining the moral high ground, it would be rather easy to imagine the Susan Collinses, John McCains and Lindsey Grahams of the world getting cold feet with a lesser Trump pick, particularly one who shifts the balance of the court rather than maintaining it. Which is to say that Gorsuch’s nomination is something of a perfect storm for GOP procedural fortitude. Only seeing such a model jurist held hostage to cynical political whims would be enough to compel the righteous indignation necessary to go nuclear. (I’ll pause here so my friends on the left can let out a primal scream for poor Merrick Garland.)

The cloture rule now faces an existential paradox. Call it Schrödinger’s Filibuster. Assuming Schumer can hold the line within his caucus—and he has seven votes to give—the 60 vote threshold for Supreme Court nominations is dead. Do the right thing and it lives to see another day.

Full piece here.

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Nobody Knew Legislating Could Be So Complicated

Contra WH spin, it doesn’t get any easier from here. And before Republicans get to find out tax reform is just as complicated as health care, they have to somehow avert a shutdown:

Of course the rub is that before Republicans can even begin to consider the FY2018 budget resolution that would provide a priviledged vehicle for tax cuts, they have to deal with a number of more pedestrian issues, chiefly funding the government. Not in some fantasy, just-on-paper policy document like Trump’s “skinny” budget — they actually have to find the formula (and the votes) to keep the lights on. And unlike the past six years where Democrats had at least some ownership of the federal government, and therefore an incentive to provide the lift, they’ll be far more inclined to let Trump and his party twist in the political wind.

While both health care and tax reform had obvious political upsides, there’s no back patting from outside groups for doing the basic blocking and tackling of government. Where reconciliation bills and Congressional Review Act resolutions allow for party line victories, albeit with restrictions, the appropriations process requires at least some Democratic buy-in in the upper chamber. How will Trump respond when his wall funding is a non-starter? How will the Freedom Caucus react if the President asks them to bite the bullet on a clean CR or debt limit increase?

Full post here.

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No, Big Data Did Not Break American Politics

In which I take a few whacks at a particularly misguided NBC News piece by Chuck Todd and Carrie Dann:

First, let’s note how little sense it makes to attribute polarization to the tools that reveal the poles. While campaign activity pursued at the margins might exacerbate existing divisions, it’s certainly not a driver of systemic paralysis. It’s a bit like blaming the rise of gaming for the abysmal workforce participation rate. There’s surely an interesting correlation, but it’s hard to parse cause and effect in a societal Möbius strip.

More importantly, the Todd/Dann argument suffers from a facile view of the voting public. Their case hinges on this idea of a robust if latent political center that has been spurned by data-driven campaigns playing to the fringe. Except that this linear idea of the ideological spectrum completely misunderstands the dynamic that brought us to this point. As I wrote in National Review back in February of 2016:

Ultimately the problem with ascribing ideological labels to your average American (much less asking them to self-identify), is that they are not ideologically consistent enough for it to mean anything. Most people simply don’t live or consume politics in that way. Yet we are limited both by language and by our conventional understanding of what these terms imply. As Will Jordan put it, “The reason Trump wins moderates is not because he wins people with moderate views, it’s because that’s not necessarily what a moderate is.”

Full post here.

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