So Harry Reid finally said enough is enough and pushed the button on the nuclear option. Now what? Well, it’s important to understand a few things about what happened and why.
First of all, contrary to what Mitch McConnell and the GOP are saying, this move to change the filibuster rules is really not that big of a deal. All it does is allow for a simple 51-vote majority on appointments and nominees for cabinet posts and judges. It excludes legislation and Supreme Court nominations. Those will still require a 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster. In other words, business as usual will, for the most part, continue in the Senate. The world did not come to an end this week.
The reason Harry Reid finally went ahead with the move is quite simple: he had no other choice. Simply put, Senate Republicans had blocked virtually every one of President Obama’s nominees. Of particular concern was the D.C. Circuit, which normally has eleven justices, but which currently has only eight. Obama has been trying to fill those vacancies and each and every time he has nominated someone, the minority party has blocked him.
It is a political axiom that a president has the right to pick and choose his cabinet and to fill judicial vacancies as he or she sees fit. For over two centuries that is pretty much been the case. Until Barack Obama came to town. Prior to his arrival, there had been a grand total of 86 filibusters on presidential nominations. To date, the GOP has filibustered Obama 82 times. In less than three years, Republicans have almost equaled the total number of filibusters of all the prior presidents combined.
These filibusters have nothing to do with competence. Rather, it is a blatant attempt to thwart this president’s agenda by any means necessary. Ever since the 2010 midterms, the GOP has successfully stymied Obama legislatively. By blocking his nominees from heading agencies and departments, as well as preventing the appointment of judges to lower courts, the hope was to completely cut the legs out from under him. Now that hope is gone, courtesy of an emboldened majority leader who finally had the courage to put a stop to the obstructionism.
The threat that McConnell levied at Reid and Senate Democrats that they would regret their actions is as laughable as it is hypocritical. Does anyone seriously believe that had the shoe been on the other foot, McConnell wouldn’t have pulled the trigger? Or that if Republicans actually take back the Senate in next year’s midterms, the first thing on their to-do list won’t be making sure Democrats couldn’t prevent them from jamming through legislation aimed at undermining every Obama initiative from the ACA to Dodd-Frank?
It was high time Democratic leadership finally woke up and smelled the coffee. If anything, this move was months overdue and quite measured, given the stunts Republicans have pulled. Maybe now, the GOP will finally understand that there are consequences for behaving like dicks.
Oh, what am I saying? We’re talking about the Republicans here. They’ll never learn.
Author: Peter Fegan
Progressive but pragmatic. Lover of music, die-hard Giants' fan and reluctant Mets' fan. My favorite motto? I'd rather be ruled by a smart Turk than a dumb Christian.