Senate rules, like any accumulation of traditional processes, are arcane, and hard to support based on any hard and fast principles. However, none of them are useless.
The reason that they’re still around is that they facilitate the process.
Now, the filibuster has been around for decades, and the reason that it’s still here is because majority parties have been afraid to get rid of it. Of course they’re confident that their party will be in power until the end of time, but just in case something should go wrong … better not mess with that.
Now we’ve got a group of legislators that is not willing to think in terms of what will happen in the future, and who do not believe compromise is valuable.
The Republicans would do well to heed the moderate voices within their own party and forget about the nuclear option. The effect of this ‘option’ would be truly nuclear. Unlike the insurgents on the day of the Iraqi election, you can trust the Democrats to keep their promise and shut down the Senate with parliamentary maneuvering. Any useful legislative effort will be put on hold so that members of both parties can relentlessly chip away at conventions which allow the body to run smoothly.
It would, in other words, be a Cold War. When you’ve got ‘nukes’ on both sides, a cold war will follow. No bullets will fly, but the already contentious atmosphere in the Senate, and to a larger extent in the House will turn down-right toxic.
The members of the legislature can debate all they want about the precedents surrounding the filibustering of judical nominees, but in terms of the current situation, it doesn’t really matter. If the Republicans do the nuclear options, the Democrats will start throwing nukes right back, no matter how much the Republicans may say, “No, no, no–according to this, we’re allowed! It says right there!”
It’s like finding a loop-hole in the nuclear test ban. No one is going to love you.
So: Frist, DeLay, Santorum, and the rest of you Republicans: leave in the filibuster, or the Democrats will be more than glad to say “Turnabout is fair play.”