Nuclear option? Armageddon It!
KABOOM! Senate Majority Leader and his fellow Democrats finally found a pair and detonated the so-called nuclear option on Thursday. Instead of having to amass 60 votes just to get a straight up and down vote on a judicial nominee, now a simple majority will suffice. My question is: What took them so long?
If you take away just one thing from this column today, it’s this fact: Half of the judicial nominees that have been filibustered in the entire history of the United States have been President Obama’s nominees. If that doesn’t tell you that the Senate Republicans have thoroughly abused a Senate rule, I don’t know what else to say to you.
While it’s been known as the “nuclear option” for some time, I don’t believe it was. The nuclear option was what Republicans were doing. Why should a nominee have to hurdle a super-majority just to get an up and down vote? Why give one Senator the power to block a president’s nominees?
And for all the talk of going back to the Constitution by Tea Party Republicans, the fact that they bemoan this maneuver by the Democrats speaks volumes about their real sensibilities. The filibuster isn’t in the Constitution. Tea Partiers should be applauding the move.
Movement conservatism is based on three goals. Low taxation (especially for the well-to-do), conservative judges and social issues like abortion and gay marriage. Conservatives hold judicial appointments in extreme high regard. It’s why while they loathed George W. Bush’s spending; they consider his judicial appointments a big success. Judges shape our society for a lot longer than a President.
Republicans warned Democrats that they’d regret this when they’re once again in the minority. Three Democrats voted against the change. Some progressive pundits have worried about that, too. But if you’re wringing your hands over this, then you haven’t been paying attention to politics in the last twenty years. Your dad’s Republican Party has died off, been silenced or neutered. Today’s Republicans would not have hesitated to invoke the nuclear option. Remember, this is the party that shut down the government because they didn’t want a law they disagreed with to go into effect. This is the party that threatened to drive us off the fiscal cliff and bring down the world economy. Would they hesitate to kill the filibuster if it meant packing the courts with conservative judges? Please.
Already, Sen. Chuck Grassley says Republicans may expand the option to Supreme Court nominees.
That’s the biggest problem with the Democrats’ version of filibuster reform. I’ve long thought the greatest political battle most of us will see in our lifetime is if a conservative Supreme Court Justice dies on President Obama’s watch. The right wing would pull out all the stops to prevent the court swinging to the liberals. Right now, it’s 5-4 in favor of conservative justices. Why did the Democrats leave this undone?
The Democrats should’ve gone all the way with the filibuster. Yes, it’s great that President Obama will be able to make Executive Branch and judicial nominees without the partisan blockade. But you can’t go a little bit nuclear. End the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees AND legislation. Why shouldn’t nominees and legislation get an up or down vote?
In fact, the Democrats should’ve killed the filibuster entirely at the beginning of President Obama’s first term. We have the Affordable Care Act precisely because of the filibuster. Think if Democrats just needed 50 votes plus the Vice-President to pass legislation in the first term.
We would’ve had a public option. We could’ve had Medicare for all. We would’ve had comprehensive immigration reform. The President and Democrats would’ve been free to drive their agenda and then the voters could decide if they liked the results.
The naysayers will say, “But the Democrats had 60 votes during half of Obama’s first term!” Really? When you have such a polluted system that it takes 60 votes, that means every Senator on the Democratic side could hold up a vote to extract concessions. Hello, Joe Lieberman.
While Republicans are licking their wounds right now, make sure you can see through their crocodile tears. Sure, they don’t like having to sit back and watch Obama’s nominees sail through. But they’re secretly happy that they will have this power when they’re in the majority. And since, the filibuster has been scaled back, they’ll have no trouble killing it completely.
Dems should do it first. The Supreme Court is the ball game. Scalia steps in front of a bus tomorrow and the GOP will be filibustering before his body is in the ground.
The filibuster is still alive. Finish the job. Kill it.