The Political Math
The thing about politics is that, in the end, it’s all about the math: either you have the votes, or you don’t.
The rhetoric coming from the Left today has been apocalyptic. I got an email from Ellie Smeal, President of the Feminist Minority, today saying, “Only a massive outpouring of opposition can stop this disastrous choice for our nation.”
This afternoon, I was preceded on ABC News Now by Kate Michelman, former head of NARAL, the abortion-rights group, who called explicitly for the Democrats to filibuster.
That’s the question everyone is discussing: Will they filibuster? And more importantly, if they do, what then?
Let’s look at the numbers. The Republicans have 55 Members; the Democrats have 44. Plus one Independent. Let’s call that 45 Dems for simplicity.
However, the Republicans need 60 votes in order to cut off a filibuster if the Democrats decided to really go to war. Hence the political impasse.
Earlier this year, faced with Democrats blocking judicial nominations with filibusters, Republicans began talking about exercising the “nuclear option” or what became known as the “Constitutional option” — this would involve changing Senate rules to lower the bar for cutting off a filibuster of judicial nominees to 51, a simple majority.
Enter the “Gang of 14.” 7 Republicans and 7 Democrats came to a side agreement — the Republicans wouldn’t support the Constitutional option, and the Democrats would filibuster only under “exceptional circumstances.”
The Gang of Fourteen
|John S. McCain III, Arizona
Lindsey O. Graham, South Carolina
John Warner, Virginia
Olympia Snowe, Maine
Susan M. Collins, Maine
R. Michael DeWine, Ohio
Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island
|Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut
Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia
E. Benjamin Nelson, Nebraska
Mary Landrieu, Louisiana
Daniel Inouye, Hawaii
Mark Pryor, Arkansas
Ken Salazar, Colorado
Where does that leave us? With all eyes on the Republican 7. The GOP needs only two of them to break the pact (the Vice President votes to break a tie) to give them a majority that would enable them to change the rules and break a Democratic filibuster.
And Lindsey Graham has already gone on record: no filibuster this time around.
I can’t believe anyone would believe this is a nominee that could be filibustered or that it would rise to the level of ‘extraordinary circumstances.’ If someone would filibuster, though, I would be prepared to vote to change the rules.
That’s 50. That’s the coup de grace.
Keep sending those emails, Ellie. Call for the filibuster, Kate.
In the end, Alito is confirmed. That’s the political math.
* * *
Lorie Byrd did the math, dividing Senators by support for abortion. She still comes up with the same result.
John at Americablog says the Dems are ‘fraidy cats if they back away from the filibuster. I’m kidding. Actually, he quotes Bismarck: “You can do everything with bayonets, but you are not able to sit on them.”
TUESDAY UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt has a great post on preempting the filibuster, with phone numbers for the GOP Seven.