If the U.S. Senate can’t do anything productive it might as well produce the appearance of activity by running in circles.

Tuesday, after several days of predictions worthy of the biblical Book of Revelations, Republicans and Democrats agreed on a compromise that will allow seven federal appointments to move forward after months of delay.

Frustrated Democrats had threatened to use the “nuclear option,” basically changing the Senate rules to prevent filibustering of federal appointees.

The nuclear rhetoric had been heating up since late last week.

The Associated Press reported the Senate was on the “brink of a meltdown” and, yes, that was a story about a parliamentary maneuver, not the sweltering temperatures.

“Nobody wants Armageddon here,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York.

Look who’s been reading Revelations 16:16 again!

The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid’s tombstone would say “He ruined the Senate,” and that Reid would be remembered as “the worst majority leader ever.”

Both men were apparently suffering from heat-induced amnesia or simply hoping no one would notice how they were completely contradicting themselves.

In 2005, Republicans were in about the same position Democrats are today. They had a majority in the Senate but not the 60 votes it takes to break a filibuster.

Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., became frustrated when Democrats blocked some of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

“Republicans believe they have figured out how to use the chamber’s rules so that only a simple majority — 51 votes — is required to force an up-or-down vote” on nominees, the Washington Post reported in May of 2005.

Republicans argued they were simply “returning to a more traditional concept of majority rule.”

” ‘Advise and consent’ does not say, ‘A supermajority is required,’ ” said Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was shocked.

“If there were ever an example of an abuse of power, this is it,” Reid inveighed. 

The “nuclear option” would “disrupt the Senate and shatter what little comity remains between Republicans and Democrats.”

Yes, the Senate still had some comity left back then.

Said Reid on the Senate floor: “You should not be able to come in here and change willy-nilly a rule of the Senate.”

In his book in 2008, Reid said he thought exercising the nuclear option would be the “end of the Senate.”

He later said it was a “dark chapter in Senate history” and that the nuclear option would “ruin the country.”

For his part, McConnell defended the nuclear option in 2005 on the Senate floor, calling the filibustering of presidential nominees by Democrats “abominable.”

“Despite the incredulous protestations of our Democratic colleagues, the Senate has repeatedly adjusted its rules as circumstances dictate,” McConnell said in 2005.

Since then he has apparently read Revelations: Democrats invoking the same nuclear option he defended in 2005 “would violate every protection of minority rights that have defined the United States Senate for as long as anyone can remember.”

To their credit, Maine’s two Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, parted ways with their party in 2005, refusing to support the nuclear option.

Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Collins was “especially eloquent” during a closed-door meeting in the Old Senate Chamber in again arguing against the nuclear option.

Credit her with consistency.

As for Reid and McConnell, it is remarkable to hear two men completely contradict such passionately held positions without even feeling the need to explain why.

Perhaps they hope no one will remember. Maybe they believe the ends justify the means. 

Either way, they look clownish and opportunistic.

We remain convinced that the gridlock in the U.S. Senate must stop, and the best way to do that is not by eliminating the filibuster, but by going back to the standing filibuster.

State Sen. Wendy Davis recently staged a filibuster in Texas, talking continually on the topic of abortion for 13 hours and without bathroom breaks.

If U.S. senators feel that strongly, they should strap on their tennis shoes and absorbent underpants and prove it.

That would likely end the gridlock in short order.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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