Of Filibusters and CBO Directors

This post concerns two of the many issues that will be before the new 114th Congress that takes office in January.  Both are, and should be, of considerable interest to conservatives, as the decisions made in connection with the issues will have a lasting impact.

First, there is the issue of the person who heads the Congressional Budget Office, the CBO Director.  The current Director is an Obama appointee who also served the Clinton administration.  His name is Doug Elmendorf, and he is apparently well thought of in economic academia.  However, the CBO is supposed to be a non-partisan servant of the Congress, and there are many Republicans who believe that the CBO’s failure to fully inform the Congress of the true costs attached to President Obama’s PPACA program is evidence of partisanship.  I would have to agree with them, and so I think a change is in order.  When the new Congress takes office, Elmendorf will have served six years.  The Republican majority should replace him with someone who can be relied upon to deliver accurate cost projections for the programs that Congress proposes in the future.  For a more informed perspective on this issue from National Review’s John Fund, click HERE.

Second, there is the issue of the filibuster.  As readers will remember, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid carried out an underhanded parlimentarian maneuver just over one year ago to change the Senate’s rules regarding the confirmation of any Presidential nominations other than nominees to the Supreme Court.  Instead of requiring confirmation by a 60-vote majority, Reid’s revision reduced the necessary vote to only 51 senators.  Traditionally, the Senate re-affirms or changes it’s rules at the beginning of a new Congress, so if the new Republican majority wants to reinstate the 60-vote threshold it now has the opportunity.  However, it appears that Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and others in the Senate no longer have the enthusiasm for the 60-vote rule that they had a year ago.  Here is an excerpt from THIS informative Politico article, written by Manu Raju and published on Wednesday of this week:

McConnell would have two options to change rules.  He would need 67 votes on the floor, meaning he’d need at least 13 Democrats to join his caucus, which is expected to have 54 members in the new Congress starting next month.  But Democrats have overwhelmingly supported weakening the filibuster rules, so it’s unlikely there are 13 Democrats who would be willing to raise the threshold back to 60.

McConnell could also attempt to move on a straight party-line vote by invoking the “nuclear option,” an arcane and rarely used procedure to change Senate rules by just a simple majority of senators, rather than 67 votes.  But McConnell has constantly berated Reid for using the nuclear option, contending Reid “broke” the Senate rules to weaken the filibuster.

Moreover, if McConnell were to employ the nuclear option, it could give future majorities even more incentive to use the tactic to further weaken the filibuster — potentially going to the most extreme step of allowing legislation to advance by simple majority support.  As a result, many Republicans are skittish about invoking the nuclear option to change the filibuster back to a 60-vote threshold.

For more on this issue, check out THIS article by PowerLine’s Paul Mirengoff, and for more on the history of Senator Harry Reid’s hypocracy, check out THIS article by Alexander Bolton, writing for the political blog The Hill.