Sociologist Robert K. Merton popularized the “Law of Unintended Consequences.”  In his 1936 work on the subject, one category he identified “immediate interest which neglects consideration of the longer term” describes well the “nuclear option” which Senate Democrats employed in November to kill the filibuster for nominations (except to the Supreme Court.)

Driven b...

Vice President Biden intoned, “On this vote, the yeas are 54, the nays are 46. Under the previous order requiring 60 votes, the amendment is not agreed to.” Moments later, from the gallery, Patricia Maisch, survivor of the horrific Tucson shooting, shouted at the senators below, “Shame on you!” 

The Senate had defeated the bipartisan compromise background-check ame...

It is hard to disagree with the headline on Bill Galston and Mark McKinnon’s op-ed in The Hill on Jan. 17: “Time for up-or-down votes in Senate on appointees.” The recent, highly partisan tit-for-tat demeans senators and the president, intensifies the polarization of the parties and deepens the public’s cynicism about Washington. 

First, the Senate Republicans held...

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Richard A. Arenberg

Brown University