by Kagro X
No reliance on authority today. It's a busy day in our house, the in-laws are coming, and weekend readership is often questionable. Also, I'm not ready with the next, more complex installment.
So here's some baseless theory to chew on:
"Guns don't kill people. People kill people."
What has that got to do with anything?
Well, the same is true in the Senate, even if the construction becomes tortured beyond everyday usefulness: Procedural rules don't kill nominations. Senators kill nominations.
If we accept the premise that the nuclear option is so named because its use will obliterate collegial relations in the Senate, then that begs the question: What keeps the Senate working now?
Granted, relations are frosty, but there's nothing like the virtual shutdown that Harry Reid has threatened would be the result of dropping the big one.
In a chamber that runs almost entirely on unanimous consent -- a procedural posture which has given rise (at least in the past) to practices like "blue slip" holds on nominations, anonymous holds on legislation, the filibuster, etc. -- every Senator is a potential nuclear threat. And it's the old doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction that keeps things in line. One Senator's abuse of the delicate balance of power can bring retribution from any one or any combination of ninety-nine others. And in turn, that threat keeps most Senators from too quickly judging any single instance of the use of these anti-majoritarian parlor tricks to be abusive enough to warrant a response. There's a built-in tolerance for these things.
Gun nuts, or the people we used to call "gun nuts" before we got all big-tent-sensitive, are fond of postulating that a well-armed citizenry is a polite and respectful citizenry. In a landscape in which anyone could be packing heat, people tend to tread lightly. Or at least, that's the theory. The same, it might be said (if there was any interest in consistency beyond whatever one niggling point these folks hoped to make with this platitude), is true in the Senate.
So here we are, contemplating this nuclear option, poised among a "dense pack" of MIRVed MX missiles (quick hello to the folks at "We Love the 80s"). "Enforce the laws we already have," you might expect to hear from the people now clamoring for new laws of Senate procedure. That is, if the subject really were guns, instead of votes.