Early Returns

Some Rules Aren't Meant to Be Followed

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

Don't do it.

Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

There's a claim going around that Senate Democrats could delay indefinitely a final vote on the Republican health-care bill by using some obscure rules

It doesn't matter what the rules in question are. The answer is: No Senate majority party will ever allow the minority party to run the chamber. Period. End of story. If you think you've discovered something in the rules that would allow them to, then be assured that, if necessary, the majority party will take back control by changing the rules (or precedents, or whatever it takes). 

Now, it is true that the majority party, even if it's unified, may allow the minority party to win some things; they certainly may allow the minority party to delay some things. In the Senate (unlike the House, for the most part), there are strong incentives to favor rules that give individual senators considerable influence, and so majority-party senators may support such rules even at the expense of party loyalty.

But only up to a point. They'll never allow the minority party to run the chamber. That's essentially what happened when Harry Reid and the Democrats removed the filibuster for executive-branch and most judicial nominations; Republicans were threatening to basically control the Senate when it came to nominations, and the Democrats acted. 

If anything, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are far quicker to act than the Democrats have been. So I'd say Democrats will have far less ability to gain by exploiting rules that can, at the end of the day, always be changed. 

Of course it's always worthwhile for activists to make sure their allies in the Senate know a particular bill or nomination is very important to them. And on the health-care bill, it is far from clear at this point whether the majority party actually has enough votes to pass whatever they are cooking up in secret. But activists who embrace false hopes about what the minority party can accomplish -- and wind up as upset with their allies as they are with the other party -- are not doing their own cause any good. 

1. Julia Azari on political violence and the health of U.S. democracy

2. Claire Adida, Adeline Lo and Melina Platas at the Monkey Cage on U.S. public opinion about refugees. 

3. Emily Badger and Niraj Chokshi at the Upshot on hating the other political party

4. I think my Bloomberg View colleague Barry Ritholtz may have been overly optimistic about policy change back in November, and perhaps a bit unduly pessimistic now -- although while I think the odds of this Congress passing major bills are a little higher than he believes, I'm probably more pessimistic that whatever they pass will be competent. 

5. And Alyssa Rosenberg on political violence

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    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

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