I don’t know if they are just desperate for clicks or what, but otherwise responsible journalists keep advancing the complete fiction that Democrats can somehow pass a “one-time exception” to the filibuster for whatever pet issue is popular at the time.

The latest spreader of this misinformation is the Washington Post’s Amber Phillips, who claims there are three possible outcomes as Democrats debate whether they should nuke the filibuster to pass a national ban on voter identification laws.

Option one — and the “least likely,” according to Phillips — is to “go nuclear and get rid of the filibuster entirely.”

“A majority of senators must agree to a rules change,” Phillips writes. “And [Sen. Joe] Manchin isn’t the only Senate Democrat opposed to making such a big change to how the Senate works (even as Democratic Party leaders like former president and senator Barack Obama urge the Senate to get rid of the filibuster).”

All true so far.

Then, Phillips gets to option two. “Keep the filibuster as-is,” which she says is “also not very likely.”

I disagree. I think leaving the filibuster as is, is the most likely option, but at least Phillips hasn’t said anything false yet.

But then she gets to option three. “Tweak the filibuster by carving out a one-time exception to voting rights.”

“The Senate can modify its rules however it wants,” Phillips writes. “So if senators want to end the filibuster just for one item, like a bill on voting rights, they can do that with a simple majority vote.”

This is just false. The Senate absolutely has the power to set its own rules, but there are very specific procedures the Senate must go through to change those rules, and the permanency of the rule change is absolutely affected by which method is chosen.

The most common way Senate rules are changed is through unanimous consent. The Senate can adopt any new rule or suspend any existing rule by unanimous consent. These are usually short-term agreements related to specific bills that set the length of debate or the number of amendments agreed to for a debate. Most Senate’s business is done using unanimous consent.

Senate rules can also be changed by statute. This is how the reconciliation process was created by the Budget and Control Act of 1974. It was also used to set up a 50-vote threshold on raising the debt limit last week. Like any other legislation that goes through the Senate, legislation that changes Senate rules needs 60 votes to pass the Senate. That is why 14 Republicans were needed to change Senate rules to allow for a one-time 50-vote threshold vote to raise the debt limit.

Senate Rules can also be permanently changed by amending the standing rules. These are the written rules that govern Senate procedure by default unless the Senate chooses to ignore them through unanimous consent. These rules can be changed, but that requires two-thirds of senators present, or 67 votes if all 100 senators are in attendance. This is how the current threshold of 60 votes was set for the filibuster (it was originally two-thirds).

Senate rules can also be changed through what is commonly referred to, and referred to by Phillips as, “the nuclear option.” A simple majority of senators can nullify a rule and “establish new precedent” by overruling the presiding officer. This is how Democrats “nuked” the filibuster for nominations in 2013 with just 51 votes. At the time, Democrats said they were only doing it for non-Supreme Court nominations. But the precedent for using the nuclear option on nominations had been set, and Republicans changed precedent again in 2017 to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch to the court.

Unlike passing a statute or changing the standing rules, there is no way to limit any use of the nuclear option to just one piece of legislation.

Once the nuclear option has been used to end the filibuster on legislation, that’s it. It is dead forever.

And don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.