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What’s the Lasting Impact of the Senate’s Filibuster Change?

by Countable | 4.6.17

The United States Senate just changed in an instant. In response to a Democratic filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch, Republicans deployed the so-called nuclear option, which drops the threshold for filling vacancies on the high court from 60 to a simple majority of 51. The move is expected to have far reaching consequences, and some lawmakers predict you’ll see an immediate impact on U.S. elections.

"It means that judges in the future will probably be more ideological because without having to reach across the aisle, you will have a more ideological pick," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Countable. “I think it will make every Senate seat even more important and future Senate campaigns are going to be more referendums on the court than they’ve ever been because every seat matters. If you don’t have to get 6o votes, then the simple majority gives the ability to control the courts so every Senate seat is going to have that component to it now.”

The rule change for Supreme Court nominees comes after Democrats lowered the voting threshold for federal judges in 2013. They now fear the hyper-partisan atmosphere will lead to attempts to lower the threshold for basic legislation, which would turn the slow moving Senate the founders envisioned into something more like the quick paced, majority-ruled House. While Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is vowing never to do that, Democrats are now hoping to start a dialogue to get rid of some of the bad blood.

"At some point we have to decide if we want to be the Senate or the House of Representatives, and hopefully after today we can all sit down together and decide if we’re going to maintain any of the Senate’s normal prerogatives," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told Countable.

Sen Susan Collins (R-ME) tried to spearhead a bipartisan letter asking to avert the nuclear option. While that effort never materialized, she says she’s not giving up trying to forge bipartisan compromises in the upper chamber. "I’m hoping we can get back on track," Collins told Countable. “I am worried that our attempts to negotiate a compromise failed, because there’s such a profound lack of trust. And I think that’s what many of us are trying to rebuild.”

Contact your senators and tell them what you think about changes to the Senate’s voting rules.

-- Matt Laslo

(Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr / Creative Commons)

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