In April 2005, when Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist threatened to eliminate use of the filibuster against judicial nominees, there was only one problem. He didn’t go far enough. Now that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has actually carried out Frist’s threat, extending the prohibition to all Senate confirmation votes save those for the Supreme Court, the same drawback pertains: Reid didn’t eliminate the filibuster in every instance. Still, it’s a good start, and there’s every reason to believe the filibuster will soon be a thing of the past. Like the Berlin Wall, it’s not an edifice you can dismantle halfway.
No one can plausibly accuse Reid of acting in haste. The number of Senate cloture votes—a rough proxy for the number of filibusters—has been rising steadily in recent decades, and after Republicans lost the majority in 2006 it more than doubled. If eliminating the filibuster was justifiable in 2005—and it was—it is much more so today.