During Harry Reid's tenure as majority leader, there has been no dirtier word in the Senate than "filibuster." On perhaps a million occasions, Reid and his Democratic colleagues have accused Republicans of using the 60-vote requirement to obstruct the Senate and prevent lawmakers from doing the country's business.
Now, there is a very real possibility the GOP might win control of the Senate in November. For the first time in eight years, Democrats would find themselves in the minority. And you'll never guess what some strategists close to Reid are talking about: Yes, Democrats are threatening to use the once-hated filibuster to stop Republican initiatives.
Jim Manley, a former longtime aide to Reid who now works for the lobbying and communications powerhouse QGA Public Affairs, wrote a brief piece in The Wall Street Journal commenting on reports that Republicans are crafting a conservative agenda to enact should they win the Senate. Republicans can plan all they want, Manley suggested, but they can forget about actually passing their bills.
"What everyone needs to realize is there is no way Senate Republicans are going to pick up enough seats to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold," Manley wrote.
That's as clear a threat as one could find of Democratic filibusters to come.
To outsiders, it might seem hypocritical that politicians would spend years bitterly denouncing something, then turn on a dime and adopt it when conditions change. But that's the nature of the United States Senate.
So if Democrats become the minority, look for them to rely on the 60-vote threshold to stop a lot of Republican legislation. Look for Republicans to criticize them for it. And then look for both sides to bide their time.
Some Republicans would like to change the filibuster-for-nominations rule back to what it was. But without a Republican president, there is no pressing need to do that; a majority GOP could stop a Barack Obama nominee by themselves, if they were united. And as far as legislation is concerned, there would be no reason for Republicans to kill the filibuster while a Democrat remains in the White House. The president would just veto GOP-passed measures anyway, and in most cases that would be that.
If Republicans do take the Senate this November, Democrats will have to decide what to do when they want to stop legislation favored by the majority. Will they remember all those terrible things they said about the 60-vote requirement?
"That's always been the unasked question when Democrats were complaining about filibusters," said a high-ranking GOP aide. "Will they just wave everything through that Republicans want to pass?"
Not a chance in the world. "I bet if you ask any one of them if they'll give up the right to debate, they'd all say no," the aide said. "Makes you wonder why anyone took them seriously."
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.