Parliamentary procedure is as baffling and dull to most people as it is important to our legislative process. But the Senate gave us a very watchable — interesting, even — little civics lesson on Thursday, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filibustered a bill he had introduced only hours earlier. The bill at hand was a measure proposed by the White House, based on a "last-choice," one-off fix McConnell himself came up with in the 2011 debt-ceiling standoff, to take America's borrowing limit out of Congress' hands — the president could raise the debt ceiling, and Congress could override him only with a veto-proof majority. McConnell introduced the bill to show that President Obama doesn't have the votes for such a measure even in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Well on Thursday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called his bluff, and this is what happened:
Well, that's a first, says Tommy Christopher at Mediaite. "The Obama-era Republican Senate minority has made unprecedented filibuster abuse their calling card, but this may be the first instance of filibuster self-abuse." Seriously, McConnell just made the best case yet for filibuster reform, says Martin Longman at Booman Tribune. Remember, Reid is from Nevada, and "they know a little something there about calling people's bluffs and making them show their cards. He just ate McConnell's lunch and drank his milkshake."
McConnell's miscalculation is amusing, but it also tells us something about the larger issue: The showdown over the fiscal cliff, says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. This was "the first major test we've seen of whether Dems will remain united" behind Obama, and they passed. Things are going to get hairier, "particularly if Republicans make good on their vow to use the debt ceiling to leverage entitlement cuts next year, and Obama makes good on his refusal to countenance the debt ceiling having any role in the talks." But if you're Obama, this is a good sign that your fractious, famously self-defeating party may actually stick together in this fight.