The GOP never imagined Sen. Harry Reid would actually pull the trigger. They say this option was “nuclear” and will destroy the Senate and the future of government. They say this is unconstitutional and they would never consider making such a radical, undemocratic move. That is what they say.
That is not at all the truth.
I struggle at times to imagine how the politicians of today on both sides of the aisle can be so disconnected from the ever-changing technological world outside that they forget we have moved far beyond the days of 16-mm news cameras and the frantic shorthand of a dogged government reporter. Everything they say, every speech they give, and every vote they take is recorded in crystal clear high-definition truth and can very easily be checked when the next batch of manufactured outrage appears. The current uproar over the changing of the Senate rules concerning the filibuster is just such an occasion.
Sen. Reid won a vote by 52-48 to alter the rules to allow presidential cabinet members and judicial appointees to get straight up-or-down votes, immune to 60-vote supermajority filibuster action. He had threatened to use this procedural action twice before, but on each occasion Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Republicans came to the table in the final moments to stave off the frustrated majority party.
There are howls from the conservative talk radio echo chamber and its allies on Fox News, but with only the briefest of glimpses over the time frame of the Obama administration you can clearly see how the Republican Party brought this on itself.
As you can see, Obama has had his appointments filibustered by the minority party in the Senate almost more often than every other President in history combined. There is absolutely no truthful and honest reasoning for this. You can claim that some of his picks were radical or ill-suited to the position, but it is impossible to make such claims for all of them. Even more, the Republican Party outright admitted in many recent cases that the person they were blocking was completely and unequivocally qualified for the job, and they were blocking him or her anyway for something completely unrelated. This is the rationale of a party not interested in governing, only in winning at all costs.
The tactic they have employed since the first day of Obama’s administration is to block, obstruct and otherwise frustrate any and all actions. It wasn’t because they had issues with the specific actions, how could they? He hadn’t done them yet. It was an all-out offensive reversing the old adage, “The best defense is a good offense.” Flip that around and you find the GOP strategy guide.
My point about the clarity of high-definition digital history is that not so long ago the shoe was on the other foot. The Democrats we in the minority and slowly increasing their usage of the filibuster (though nothing like at the level of the current GOP). The majority party started threatening to make the very same change Sen. Reid has just made, and Reid himself took to the floor to espouse the history, necessity and tradition of the filibuster as a bulwark against a majority power running ramshod over the country. During that discussion, angry and loud voices from the right, such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, were calling this proposed rules change “the constitutional option” and practically begging the GOP to pull the trigger. Now that things are flipped, suddenly this move is “tyranny,” “lawlessness,” and “the largest power grab in US history.” Hypocrisy is ugly, no matter which side of the aisle it’s on.
Now in regards to those claiming this is going to tear down the judiciary as well, the worry is that Obama will use his majority vote count in the Senate to push through a large number of far-left lifetime appointees to the DC Circuit Court, the second highest court in the land. Yet a cursory glance at the list of people he is putting up shows a far less radical group than imagined. These people are nothing like Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia (the latter of whom openly states that he gets his news only from talk radio and Fox News, nowhere else). In fact, the Senate Democrats even wrote in a carve-out so Supreme Court nominations are exempted from the change and still subject to the supermajority threshold of 60 votes. Again, the quality and tenor of the people nominated are not the issue at all, instead it is the person nominating them. The GOP has been hell-bent on an obstructionist rampage from day one and they have forced the Democrats into making this rules change.
Think about it. Both parties must assume that at some point they are going to be the minority. The Democrats know that this removal of the filibuster against appointees is going to be used against them, possibly as early as 2016, but they had no choice if they wanted to actually get anything done in Obama’s second term. This was a necessary tactic against a party that has thrown a national temper tantrum for five years and counting.
There are some voices stating that the Democrats should have gone even further and just removed the filibuster altogether, even from votes on legislation, but I think Sen. Reid knows his party will be on the other side of the coin again and fears what that kind of power would mean.
So now we wait and see how fast Obama and team can move on these nominations, fill the achingly short-staffed DC Circuit Court and witness how it rules on which laws are held up, which shut down, and which cases make it up to the Supreme Court.