Before there was fake news, there were fake filibusters, those procedural sideshows that used up far too much ink and precious oxygen to explain and often resulted in otherwise-sensible senators voting for something before voting against it. The fuss over the fall of the filibuster is foolish. It has not been a tool that forged bipartisanship, as evidenced by the hyper-partisan politics during the filibuster phase.

Reports of the filibuster death for judges and Cabinet appointments have been greatly exaggerated, and it’s disgusting to refer to the parade of nonsense that unfolded in the U.S. Senate as the “nuclear option” while North Korea aims ballistic missiles in the direction of our shores and the United States bombs Syria to punish Syria for gassing its people with chemical weapons. Changing a stodgy procedural rule doesn’t amount to a hill of beans for anyone living outside the ivory tower.

Without the filibuster for appointments, the sun will rise in the East, the majority will continue to rule as it always has in American politics and the absence of the 60-vote threshold will give moderates like Sen. Susan Collins more power, not less. With the number so close – 52 Republicans to 48 Democrats – the senators with the most potential to cross party lines will wield more influence.

Without the filibuster rule, moderates presumably might be persuaded to cross the partisan line, and it will take fewer defections to alter the outcome, so it’s somewhat surprising that Sen. Angus King voted with Democrats opposing cloture on the Gorsuch nomination and is now a defender of the 60-vote rule he ran against as a candidate.

“Although I came here deeply skeptical of this practice, I have come over time (even when I was a member of the majority caucus) to appreciate its role in forcing a modicum of bipartisanship in connection with important issues. While I still believe in reform of the institution so that we can stop the logjam in Washington, it seems to me that for major policy decisions, like a lifetime appointment, it is not unreasonable to require 60 votes in order to garner broader, more sustainable bipartisan support, which I think is in the interest of the nation,” he said in a statement last week.

King could have voted with the Republicans to end debate on Gorsuch and then against the nominee, with the Democrats, and straddled the line. Remember that “bridge” he was going to be between the parties? An independent bridge leads nowhere in Washington. Going into 2018, it is in the interest of the state of Maine that King’s personal brand doesn’t take priority over what’s at stake. One of Maine’s two seats in the U.S. Senate should be blue like the ocean.

Democrats used their majority to pass the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans used their majority to block former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, and put President Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, on the bench. Through it all, though, the processes – budget reconciliation, stonewalling a vote, ending the filibuster – were overly complicated and wasted time and resources. According to King, he has voted more than 350 times on cloture motions, time that could be better spent voting for and against other things of importance.

The 60-vote rule in a democratic body of 100 members may once have been a saucer to cool things coming from the fiery House, as George Washington is said to have suggested to Thomas Jefferson, but like most fine china saucers now, which sit on shelves and collect dust, the filibuster is dainty and impractical in the modern world.

So farewell, filibuster, and so long, “cloture,” that horrible word that rolls off the tongue like vomit and conjures the image of a Victorian-era corset. Good riddance to a rule so constricting most don’t know if they are for it or against. Democrats forced the hand of Republicans to get rid of a tool they broke and misused, and we may be better for it.

From 1999 to 2006, when the Republicans controlled the Senate, the Democratic minority used the filibuster 272 times. By contrast, from 2007 to 2014, when the Republicans were in the minority, they used it 644 times, more than twice as often. The average filibuster per congressional session under Obama was 158; under President George W. Bush, it was 85, Steven Waldman said in an April 5 New York Times op-ed.

Now, instead of the Republicans needing eight Democrats to confirm a presidential nomination, the Democrats need three Republicans to defeat one. A nuclear disaster? Hardly, and contrary to the old saw that the filibuster forged bipartisanship, it was under the filibuster reign wherein partisanship flourished.

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and former state senator. She can be contacted at:

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