John Dickerson

John Dickerson is a CBS senior national correspondent and Chief Political Analyst. He is also a Contributing Writer to The Atlantic and is co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest.

The Old Senate Was Already Dead

If West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd were still in the Senate, it would be fascinating to see which side of the recent filibuster debate he would take. Byrd was a defender of Senate traditions, which caused him to warn his Democratic colleagues against changing the filibuster rules, but as majority leader, it was Byrd who in 1980 pushed to weaken filibuster rules. Whatever his view, Byrd’s baroque oration would have drawn from Shakespeare (he quoted from all 37 plays in his 50-year career) and Cicero. But Byrd passed away three years ago. The Senate club whose rules he knew so well and righteously defended passed away some time ago too, though the exact date is not known. So today’s change was merely a rule that codified an established fact: The Senate club is no longer what it once was. Or, as Byrd might put it, today’s change made what was de facto now de jure.