When Senate Democrats originated the practice of filibustering judicial nominees during George W. Bush’s presidency, Republicans were tempted to use the nuclear option to kill the judicial filibuster and approve nominees with a simple majority vote. But after much debate and hand-wringing, Republicans decided that short-term expediency could not justify destroying the filibuster, a tradition that for centuries made the Senate a more deliberative and bipartisan body than the House.
Democrats have been similarly tempted in recent weeks as Senate Republicans filibustered three D.C. Circuit nominations designed to flip the second most important court in the land from bipartisan — a 4–4 Democrat-Republican split — to a 7–4 rubber stamp. Conventional wisdom on the Hill said that Harry Reid and his colleagues would not be so reckless and dismissive of Senate tradition as to follow through on their nuclear-option threats. Conventional wisdom underestimated Harry Reid’s ruthlessness.