But all of that assumes that the minority, fresh off a "nuclear" strike, would roll over without retaliating. It's an assumption that strains credulity, and even Democrats aren't buying it.
"I'm not so sure how Sen. McConnell would retaliate, but I can guarantee you that he will," said Jim Manley, a former top Reid aide.
McConnell, or any other minority leader, would have plenty of options.
Stripped of a voice on executive branch nominees, the minority could take the nominee fight up the chain, using the filibuster to block commissioners, justices or even a chairperson for the Federal Reserve. And if they didn't want to go that far, they'd have plenty of avenues to add yet more deliberation to the world's most deliberative body.
Much of the Senate's business — including the approval of many nominees — these days is done via unanimous consent agreements, where measures are approved without a recorded vote. Angry over the nuclear option, the minority could make those a thing of the past. They could also vote down motions to proceed and force the chamber to go through 30 hours worth of debate post-cloture on every measure, noted Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.
And there's every chance Republicans would find another, more-extreme filibuster replacement that nobody has thought up yet.
Sound far-fetched? Look at Wisconsin, a filibuster-free state where a simple majority is enough to pass measures in both the assembly and state senate.
That left a Democratic minority in the state Senate with little recourse in 2011 when new Republican Gov. Scott Walker, boosted by a majority in both chambers, was moving budget legislation that would gut public unions' ability to engage in collective bargaining.
Livid over the legislation but without a way to block it, 14 Senate Democrats resorted to a desperate gambit: they fled to Illinois and went into hiding. By leaving the state, the legislators took advantage of a then little-known rule that required 60 percent of all senators to be present for a vote on certain types of legislation.
The senators remained out-of-state — despite facing daily $100 fines and an (ultimately unsuccessful) bid by Walker for law enforcement to bring them home — for nearly a month, delaying the bill while Madison, the state's capital, exploded into a mass-protest zone against the law.
Does anyone believe that in the U.S. Senate, a body with two-plus centuries of rules and traditions, the minority couldn't find a similar such bit of arcana to exploit?
In Wisconsin, Walker and his fellow Republicans were able to dodge the quorum requirement by stripping fiscal provisions from the bill, eventually passing Act 10 through the Senate by an 18-to-1 margin. But instead of the bipartisanship that nuclear option proponents promise rules reform would deliver in the U.S. Senate, the law has turned Wisconsin into a perpetual political war zone.