How can the United States Senate be pulled back from the disaster of winner-take-all, scorched-earth partisanship? The only answer I can think of that could work is a return of the filibuster for all Presidential appointments. If the standard for Senate confirmation of an appointment is sixty votes (3/5), or even 66 (2/3), a number of features of the system are changed:

Presidents would have to choose nominees who are able to get significant bipartisan support, who are not radical and divisive, or of questionable qualifications.

Senate majority leaders could not rely on party-line votes to approve nominations.

Senators would have to (at least some of them) actually think about the nominees (rather than just vote the party line) and debate (rather than just yell at each other) their qualifications.

Candidates for the Senate and President who take uncompromising positions would become less attractive.

The Senate could become more like the deliberative and collaborative body the Founders imagined it should be, and a brake on the popular passions of the moment, part of its envisioned role in its relationship with the House Of Representatives.

There’s a catch to this idea. It would probably require a Constitutional Amendment to remove the temptation to change the rules when party advantage beckons.

One thing is clear. The current majority leader will not do this. In the event that the Democrats take back the majority in 2020, no matter who wins the Presidency in that election, they will be hugely tempted to keep the rule as it is now, if only to wreak vengeance on the other party. I would like to see many candidates for Senate in that election run on a promise to restore the filibuster rule on appointments.


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