Imagine you’re a member of the U.S. Senate and you’re part of the Democratic majority, but you’re a moderate, firmly in the mainstream and the farthest thing from a bomb-throwing ideologue. You don’t dislike all of your Republican colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Hell, you might even like some of them more than the feckless Harry Reid or the smug Charles Schumer.
You came to Washington for a reason and it sure wasn’t to sit there on your hands because there is no legislation that can pass and no presidential nominee that can be confirmed because a simple majority isn’t enough to do it. It requires a super-majority of 60 votes to get anything done and what it takes to get those 60 votes is sometimes a price too high to pay.
Take a real good look at Mitch McConnell, folks. This is nobody’s romantic daydream. How many times would you want to have to kiss that ass?
The president’s nominees to fill three vacancies on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals were blocked from an up-or-down vote by the GOP’s refusal to allow one. The Ninth Circuit is second only to the Supreme Court in the importance of the cases it hears. The president’s ability to appoint judges to the federal judiciary is perhaps his most lasting legacy and the Ninth Circuit is where many future Supreme Court nominees come from. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) led the charge to keep Obama’s nominees off the Ninth Circuit saying they weren’t really needed (as if Grassley would be saying the same thing had Mitt Romney won) and he in effect dared Harry Reid to go nuclear.
Reid called Grassley’s bluff and by a 52-48 vote (with three Democrats defecting and joining the Republicans) modified the rules to allow a simple majority to approve presidential nominees and appointments, but permit the filibuster for legislation and Supreme Court nominations (which means Ruth Bader Ginsburg had better stay healthy). Now the president’s nominees will get the vote and presumably the confirmation they should be considered for. It wasn’t a matter of whether they were qualified. It was a matter of the Republican strategy to oppose the nominees because Obama picked them.
The late liberal Senator Paul Wellstone said, “If we don’t fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don’t really stand for them.” Republicans have fought very hard to stand in the way of President Obama’s nominees regardless of their qualifications and finally the Democrats grew a collective spine and chose to fight back for what they stand for.
Republicans will fume and fuss and threaten dire consequences for the Democrats when they are in the minority. The Democrats will shrug and say, “Bring it.” It’s not as if there’s much left in the way of bipartisan legislation coming out of the upper chamber before Reid and the Dems dropped the bomb.
The Senate Democrats finally woke up to a fact the Senate Republicans had been hip to for years: the “rules” had ALREADY been changed. The 60-vote super majority worked only so long as senators were willing to compromise. The Republicans don’t do that anymore and have used a rule the Senate made to govern itself to make the Senate ungovernable. What happens next? The Republicans will vote for or against the President’s nominees–as they are Constitutionally bound to do. The worst part about revoking the ability of the minority to foil the will of the majority is it makes the Senate Republicans do their freaking jobs.
It had to end someday. Sometimes you have to be willing to fight for a short-term gain even if you lose in the long run.
When your computer won’t boot up correctly, videos won’t stream, pages won’t load and the damn thing just sits like a big useless lump that doesn’t work, you can always sit there wishing and hoping and praying it will start working. Maybe if you talk sweetly to the computer and promise how good it is going to be if it just starts working right. Maybe you’ll get lucky and it will start working.
Or you can just reboot the sucker and reset it and see if that gets it to working.
Last November, the Democrats won the presidency and increased the number of Democrats in the Senate. By playing “Let’s Make A Lousy Deal” with McConnell, the Dems permitted the Republicans to grind the Senate to a halt as if they had won.
That was foolish of the Democrats and all it did was embolden the Republicans to oppose ANY nominee no matter how qualified they were. Reid got tired of playing Robin to McConnell’s Batman. It was time for the Democrats to remember they won the last election and start acting like it.
Of course the strategy has long-term implications, but so what? You don’t think Reid and the Democrats aren’t aware of the blowback from this change if or when the Republicans take control? It was a calculated risk based upon the possible gains versus the probable losses, but the Republican intransigence had reached new levels and there was NO hope they might negotiate on allowing the president’s nominees to receive a floor vote.
The GOP does not want to let President Obama’s judicial nominees to tip the ideological balance of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They would not have a similar problem if it were Mitt Romney submitting a future Antonin Scalia. This is pure political gamesmanship by Senate Republicans who refuse to acknowledge they lost the last presidential election, so than accept the judgment of the American voters they hide behind a procedural trick to foil their will.
Harry Reid rebooted the Senate. I didn’t think he had the gonads to do it, but I’m glad he did.
- The Day of the Senate’s Nuclear Devastation May Have Finally Arrived (thewire.com)
- Time to go nuclear (msnbc.com)
- GOP blocks court nominees (goerie.com)