The conflict between the new guard and old will likely come to a head over a Supreme Court nomination. If a moderate like Garland can get majority support but not sixty votes, what will the Democrats do? It is a good bet that they will go nuclear again—and abolish filibusters for Supreme Court nominees as well. That would be a healthy step for both Democrats and democrats. The filibuster has become a cancer on the legislative process, creating the need for supermajorities on even the most routine business. The less it exists, the better.
Supporters of the filibuster will warn that if it is abolished for Supreme Court nominees, it will soon be abolished for legislation too—and then the Senate will become more like the House. And that will be fine. The Senate is, by design, a less than democratic body; there is no real justification for the fact that small-population states like Vermont and Wyoming have the same number of senators as California and Texas. The existence of the filibuster only exacerbates the anti-democratic nature of the chamber. Merrick Garland’s nomination will prove consequential indeed if it helps usher the filibuster to its long-overdue demise.