Over the past five years senate Republicans have creatively used any number of procedural rules to advance their agenda. Their primary weapon of choice has been the filibuster.
Republicans have strategically and systematically used the filibuster to block presidential nominees to the judiciary, render government agencies powerless and circumvent written law; all for the stated purpose of impeding the president’s agenda.
Republicans oppose the formation of the Consumer Protection Agency under the Dodd-Frank Bill. The bill became law. Republicans filibuster the president’s nominee to chair the agency thereby rendering the agency powerless.
Republicans oppose the National Labor Relations Board. The board was enacted into law by congress. Republicans filibuster the president’s nominees to sit as commissioners on the board thereby rendering the board powerless.
Major Republican donors oppose the FHA. Republicans can’t oppose the FHA because the real estate lobby will go crazy. So Republicans filibuster the president’s nominee to head the FHA thereby rendering the agency powerless.
Republicans filibuster the president’s nominee for Secretary of Defense…while the country is at war. They filibuster cabinet appointments, under secretary appointments, judicial appointments…
If Republicans don’t like a law and they don’t have the votes to repeal it…can’t find the votes to defund it…can’t find the votes to amend it…then they will filibuster anything they can to render the law moot.
Republicans have used the filibuster more times during the Obama administration than it was used in the PREVIOUS SEVEN PRESIDENTAIL ADMINISTRATIONS COMBINED.
Majority Leader Harry Reid said it best: “In the entire history of the Republic, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominees. Half of them have occurred during the Obama Administration.”
Over the past five years Republicans have made such liberal use of the filibuster that as a matter of course it now takes 60 votes to get anything past in the senate. The concept that “majority rules” is a long lost thing of the past.
That is until yesterday.
There are currently three vacancies on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. The DC circuit is considered the second most important court in the land because it is in this court that has jurisdiction over executive orders. The most important court in the land is of course, the Supreme Court. Many justices serving on the DC Circuit find themselves appointed to the Supreme Court
The court is currently divided equally between four judges appointed by Republican presidents and four appointed by Democrats. There are currently three vacant seats.
The president, as he is required by the constitution, placed the names of three abundantly qualified individuals into nomination. Leader Reid warned Minority Leader McConnell that there would be dire consequences if McConnell’s caucus filibustered the appointments. Reid warned McConnell that Democrats were tired of Republicans holding the government hostage through use of the filibuster. Reid warned McConnell that if Republicans filibustered the president’s nominees to the DC district court he would use his authority as majority leader to exercise what is known as the “nuclear option.” In translation it means that Reid would change the current rule which required 60 votes to end debate and replace it with a simple majority vote.
Reid had had threatened to “go all nuclear” on the Republicans before. But each time cooler heads prevailed. They reminded Reid that at some point in time the power in the senate was bound to shift. Democrats had been in the minority before and had not been bashful about using the filibuster to delay Republican nominees.
But this was different in Reid’s eyes. Republicans had been unabashedly using the filibuster to circumvent laws passed by congress. This was obstructionism gone rogue.
McConnell believed that Reid was bluffing. Republicans filibustered all three of the president’s nominees. Reid had had enough. With the president’s support Reid went “nuclear,” changed the rules and forever altered the way business will be conducted in the senate.
There are currently 93 vacant seats in the federal courts. McConnell challenged Reid on the three vacancies in the DC Circuit. McConnell overplayed his hand and lost. Now the president can fill all 93 vacancies and there is nothing republicans can do to stop him.
Republicans went nuts! McConnell warned that Democrats would rue the day “sooner than you may think.”
McConnell is correct. Democrats may well lose the senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016. If that should that happen Democrats will find themselves without the filibuster to stem the Republican tide.
And that is exactly how it should be.
If a party wants to rule as the majority then it needs to make its case to the voters and win an election. A minority party should not be able to use procedural tactics to circumvent the law. And a president, Democrat or Republican, should have a mandate to pick his own team.
Republicans like to talk about how they are the defenders of the constitution.
You won’t find the word “filibuster” mentioned anywhere in that document.