In Part II of "The future of the filibuster" series, I talked about how we got to where we are. The post-nuclear Senate. Where we are is pretty much exactly where Mitch McConnell wanted to be. Smart guy, McConnell.
McConnell forced Reid to use the nuclear option in 2013. Why? He wanted the filibuster gone for the next time Republicans had a Senate majority, and the Presidency. He just didn't want to be the guy who pushed the button. And, Republicans got the Senate majority in 2014, and then the White House in 2016. Now, Republicans can use the 51 vote threshold for cloture that Reid was forced to create to fill executive branch appointments, and all judicial vacancies below the Supreme Court.
We have to be careful, though, to avoid the teleological fallacy. We cannot always conclude that the end is the intent. However, since this was pretty clearly McConnell's thought at the time, and many of us asserted it at the time (sorry, this blog wasn't around then), I'm going to go ahead and say this was McConnell's plan.
But, there is a second part to the plan. Reid gave him precedent. Once Reid went nuclear, he put nukes on the table. What about the Supreme Court? What about legislation? The key here is that if McConnell uses the nuclear option, or even threatens it, he can point to Reid's previous use of it. That's why precedent matters. Note, too, the fact that Democrats caved to the threat in 2004. Precedent matters.
Now that we have the precedent, we can make some predictions. Starting in Part IV! There's only so much I can write in one morning. I try to do these over my coffee, and there's only so much coffee I can drink.