There's been much talk in recent years in the U.S. Senate of "going nuclear," or of triggering a "nuclear option." Well, it's time. No, make that well past time, for President Obama to go nuclear on Senate Republicans. The Senate GOP has steadily ratcheted up its obstruction of very nearly everything to come through the chamber. Not only have they been blocking needed extensions of payroll tax cuts for middle class workers and unemployment benefits for jobless Americans, just this week, Republicans filibustered both an Obama nominee for a federal appeals court as well as the president's appointee to head up a new financial consumer protection agency.
Soon after Republicans filibustered Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Thursday, the president came out once again to issue another sternly worded complaint about the Republicans' behavior. The Republicans, the president protested, were not “on the level” by blocking Cordray, a former state attorney general from Ohio. Obama is entirely right, of course, but that doesn't matter.
The problem is that not only do such presidential scoldings fail to scare Republican senators, they lap them up. Watching Obama moan only emboldens his adversaries to do more to frustrate him, not less. The president promised not to give up on the Cordray nomination, and to take nothing off the table to make it happen. That was supposed to be a veiled threat to circumvent the senators once they leave town by putting Cordray in office through a recess appointment.
The problem is that that is an empty threat. Republicans know how to, in reality, go out on recess while technically keeping the Senate in session. They did it this past summer, specifically to block any recess appointments. They did it once, and will only likely do it again. That means that if he truly is serious about not taking anything off the table, Obama must find some other, sharper stick with which to politically club Republicans into submission.