Where We Stand on the Nuclear Option
It was certainly jarring yesterday when Harry Reid finally called off the kabuki dance that is a potential "compromise" on nuking the filibuster. There's no turning back, and everyone knows it. So where do we stand? Well, we know there's three Republican senators who are deadset against the nuclear option (barring a strategically placed horse's head at the foot of their bed): McCain, Chafee, and Snowe. This means that Reid needs to pick off just three more Republican senators, and Frist's gambit (not to mention his presidential ambitions) evaporates. What's interesting is how many Republican Senators have either declined to take a stand, or have indicated their opposition to the nuclear/constitutional/Byrd/whatever-you-wanna-call-it option.
Yesterday, we found out that Pat Roberts, of all people, has expressed doubt about the Republican plan. Today, the American Family Association is apoplectic at the likelihood that John Warner is planning to vote "no." And of course, there have been murmerings from several other members of the GOP caucus--including Specter, Hegel, Lugar, Collins, Murkowski, DeWine and Sununu--against the nuclear option in the past few days.
It's doubtful that all or even most of these Republicans will eventually cast their lot against Frist. Indeed, the 2003 prescription drug farce demonstrates just how far the White House is willing to go to twist the arms (and other extremities) of wayward Congresscritters. But again, we only have to pick off three of these vacillating Senators. Something tells me that Reid, with his impeccable poker face, is all but certain that Frist doesn't have the votes. Although this is no time to be overconfident, Reid's decision yesterday to forsake any further compromise negotiations indicates that we're in pretty good shape, although anything can happen.