In poker parlance, it’s known as a call: to match a bet or match a raise. In politics, it’s referred to as the same thing, only in this instance the stakes are a lot higher.
In a bold and uncharacteristic move, President Obama nominated three judges to fill the three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit. At present there are only eight sitting judges on the court. Eleven are required by statute. The move or call ostensibly boxes Mitch McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans into a corner.
On the one hand, if Republicans filibuster any or all of the nominees, the likelihood is that Harry Reid will opt to go nuclear and change the Senate rules on them, thereby eliminating the requirement for 60 votes on all nominations, something McConnell dreads deeply. On the other hand, if Republicans blink and allow all three an up or down vote, then the balance of power on what is generally acknowledged to be the second highest court in the country shifts decidedly toward Obama.
Talk about a no-win scenario for McConnell who is facing a difficult reelection of his own to save his Senate seat. If he is seen as too soft, he could be primaried by his own base; however, if he pushes too hard then he loses what little leverage he still has as minority leader. Either way he’s screwed.
To be honest, it couldn’t happen to a “nicer” guy. Listening to McConnell and Senate Republicans whine about how Obama is packing the court has been tiresome. In the first place, Obama isn’t packing the court. The term packing refers to what FDR did in the 1930s when he decided to add six justices to the Supreme Court. Roosevelt was clearly wrong and was slapped down. All Obama is doing here, as he succinctly observed in his Rose Garden speech, is his “job.”
The next few days should be entertaining to say the least. Assuming Republicans hold true to form and filibuster Obama’s nominees, Reid still faces a tough task. With the passing of Frank Lautenberg, Democrats now hold only 54 seats. Expecting all but four to vote to change Senate rules will be a tall order indeed.
I’m not much of a Harry Reid fan, as you’ve probably surmised by reading my posts, but this may well be the greatest test of his leadership to date. If he fails, the results could be disastrous for Obama’s second-term agenda. If he manages to pull it off, then a major obstructionist roadblock will have been removed and the pathway cleared for at least some, if not all, of the President’s nominees.
Given that no other president in modern history has faced this much unified opposition to his nominees, that would be poetic “justice” to say the least.