The use of the filibuster has been a frequent topic of discussion when talking about causes of current gridlock. As a frequent critic of the routine filibustering tactic of the GOP, I think it is incumbent upon me to be consistent and hold Democrats to the same standard. So let’s do a though experiment and imagine a world where Republicans sweep the 2012 elections and the conditions are such that Democrats deserve the same amount of criticism as current Republicans.
The first, of course, is that Democrats filibuster nearly every bill, motion to commit a bill, and appointment possible. I think it is wrong to use the filibuster to grind government to a halt, regardless of which party is doing it.
Second, the major components of the Republican policy agenda are centrist in nature. For instance, if the Romney administration puts forth a health care proposal that is based on a plan from the Center for American Progress and Democrats filibuster it, that would be wrong. Or if a double-dip recession requires a stimulus and the Romney administration proposes policies that are supported by economists on the left and the right and Democrats filibuster it, that would be wrong. Or if the Romney administration creates a plan for balancing the budget that has $3 in new revenue for every $1 in spending cuts and Democrats filibuster it, that would be wrong. Or if the Romney administration tries to solve climate change through sensible market based methods and Democrats filibuster it, that would be wrong.
Does anyone think the Republicans in Congress are likely to enact such an agenda? Or are they more likely to propose solutions that please their base or the Tea Party? In that case, I would support filibusters by the Democrats. The point here is that what is being filibustered is as important as whether the filibuster is being used. The current crop of Republicans have filibustered legislation that moderate Republicans (when they existed) themselves proposed and supported. Equivalencies between the Republican and Democratic use of the filibuster should only be drawn when Democrats are guilty of the same.