[Voltaire's prof says] Reid's threats to let Republicans filibuster are empty since Reid has never forced a live filibuster. The "cost" of filibustering, in both the public eye and terms of Senate norms, has been reduced by Reid into a cheap option Republicans can afford to do all the time.On the general issue, I'll just refer everyone again to my old post on the live filibuster. Bottom line is that the majority has a lot more to lose then the minority. Indeed, at the end of the 111th Congress (at least so far) the Democrats seemed to have the votes for several additional bills or nominations but no floor time to get to them; it's hard to see how sacrificing floor time to a demonstration of...what, exactly?...would help with that. Against a determined group large enough to prevent cloture, there's really nothing that a live filibuster can do except advertising, and it's highly unlikely that it's effective advertising (no one would read from phone books) or a better use of floor time than the alternatives. For a smaller group, cloture is available and probably more efficient.
In other words, he wants Reid to pick an issue, and force the R's to read from the telephone book. He says this will raise the credibility of Reid's threats and reduce the overall number of filibusters by R's, though most will still be "virtual."
There is, however, one circumstance in which forcing a live filibuster might work: when the opposition is small (clearly below the number needed to prevent cloture) and the majority suspects that the opposition is not, in fact, very intense. In that case, the opposition might claim that it would, if necessary, hold the floor, but in fact be bluffing. That wasn't the case on any of the big legislative items, or even the small ones that would excite conservatives -- in the latter, it would probably be worth it for a dozen Senators to keep going just to generate the kind of publicity they really crave, even if it was overall unpopular and they didn't actually care about the issue. But on some of the small stuff, especially the noncontroversial nominations, it may be the case that opponents were really bluffing. Remember, all that's at stake in those situations is trying to get through the bill (or nomination, which I think is really where it mattered) without having to chew up floor time on cloture. But then again, even in that situation it's not really all that big a deal to move ahead with cloture and see what happens; it's likely that the minority just won't use post-cloture time, and so you haven't lost much by using cloture to get it done.