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Lamar Alexander's Agenda for a Filibuster-Free Senate

Is Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander such a proud upholder of Senate tradition that he can’t bear to give ground on the filibuster? Is he simply spoiling for a fight? Or, like a drunken frat boy yelling, “Come at me, bro!” is he feeling both a little piqued and a little reckless at the same time? 

Whatever the case, ever since Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he was willing to break Republican opposition to executive nominees by using the nuclear option, Alexander has told anyone who would listen that if Reid does so, the GOP would kill the filibuster altogether. (Once Republicans are back in the majority, that is.)

Now that a late-night, closed-door meeting of the Senate has failed to produce a compromise, Alexander’s threats loom a little larger. Here’s a list of the consequences he has promised to rain down on Senate Democrats should they forcefully break the Republican filibuster. Just you wait ‘til a couple of his buddies show up in 2014.

  • In mid-June, Alexander took to the Senate floor to remind Reid that a Republican-controlled Senate run amok could approve the Yucca mountain project, turning the Nevada desert—Reid’s backyard—into the nation’s premier nuclear waste dumping ground. “If the Democrats can turn the Senate into a place where a majority of 51 can do anything they want, soon a majority of 51 Republicans are going to figure out the same thing to do,” he said. “Make no mistake, a vote to end the filibuster is a vote to complete Yucca mountain.”
  • June was also when Alexander unveiled a whole agenda that Republicans would be free to enact if the filibuster no longer tied their hands—like rolling back the estate tax, allowing energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, repealing Obamacare, and converting the entire federal education system to vouchers and scholarships.
  • When Reid’s resolve to break GOP opposition hardened in early July, Alexander had yet another GOP wish list ready to go. This time, it included approving the Keystone XL pipeline, imposing national right-to-work laws, and stripping away portions of Dodd-Frank. Picturing the future, he said, “We’ll take our case to the people, we’ll argue for a new majority and then Republicans will be in a position to do whatever Republicans with 51 votes want to do. The more we think about it, the more attractive it becomes.”
  • Separately, Alexander tried invoking a few liberal watchwords when speaking before the press last Thursday. An empowered majority, he warned, “can change abortion rights. It can change civil rights. It can change environmental laws. It can change labor laws. Today, the House can do that, and when it comes to the Senate, we stop and think and consider. But after this, whoever has the majority can do anything it wants, on any day.” 

Molly Redden is a staff writer with The New Republic. Follow her on Twitter @mtredden.