Judicial nominations — and pretty much everything else — have been stonewalled over the past five years. The reason is that Republicans have taken the filibuster from an emergency procedure to stop power-grabs or the screwing over of low-populated states to essentially requiring a supermajority for everything. A number of seats on various courts have been left unfilled. Since the Democrats have “only” a 55-45 Senate majority, this basically left unprecedented obstruction unchallenged.
But that has partially changed. Last summer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to use a parliamentary trick that enables him to change the rules to require only a simple majority for administrative appointments. The 2010 financial reform was partially nonfunctional because some of the positions it created were not filled. But after Reid made it clear that he had the votes, the Republicans backed down. All too cleverly noting that Reid said nothing about court appointments, Republicans continued judicial filibusters. So Reid dropped the bomb. He didn’t even bother negotiating this time.
Result? The days of the judicial system being broken by a minority are over. Sure, this doesn’t apply to Supreme Court nominees, but should Ruth Ginsberg, Anthony Kennedy, or Antonin Scalia leave the court, what’s to stop Reid from doing this again? Plus, since the opposition has condemned this move, its terms are technically nonbinding.
I’m surprised Reid did this so soon. I expected him to at least give the Republicans a chance to back down again. I guess he just didn’t want to have to go through this every time there are seats to fill.
The semi-psychotic social Darwinists and Christian fundamentalists at Free Republic wasted no time getting to the point:
“Fascism on the march”
“Fellow Alinskyites of Obama will now be FLOODED into the courts and bureaucracies……
Your freedom took a giant step backward today, thanks to Obamugabe’s brownshirts.”
“Maybe now Republicans won’t be so content with their minority status. The Hitlerites are rolling right over them.”
“If there is a God, one day, we will cram this ruling down Democrats’ throats and they’ll have to take it because we’ll make them. Personally, I hope the retribution is so bad to Democrats that they end up digging that dead bastard “Searchlight Nevadan” up and throwing his traitorous bones to the four winds.”
I’ll add that I’m not cherry-picking. That is four out of the first ten comments. It’s amazing how a President getting to actually appoint judges like every white President before him drives them off the edge, especially since I can remember when “up or down vote” was a Freeper line.
Alas, this does not apply to legislation. But what’s the point? Even if Democrats could pass legislation through the Senate, we saw from the gun control episode early this year that House Republicans are more or less immune to political pressure. Preventing the obstruction of nominations, unfortunately, is the limit of the system.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vows that Democrats will “regret this.” I know what that means. But I’m not sure I agree. Republicans who rightly fear the possibility that Democrats will do to President Christie what Republicans have done to President Obama may well eliminate all filibusters the next time they run everything. But in the long run, that will be as self-destructively cocky as Darth Vader’s boss:
What Grand Moff Tarkin, I mean Senator McConnell, doesn’t get, is that the filibuster, though used by whichever party is in the Senate minority at the time, has been no friend to the left. Why? Because the left’s policy changes tend to be more permanent than the right’s. Without the filibuster, health care reform more advanced than the current bill would have been passed as far back as President Harry Truman’s early months in office and no more recently than 1994. Similar stories about Social Security, civil rights (the Democrats who filibustered on that were overwhelmingly of the old conservative wing that would pass the Reagan tax cuts), first trimester abortion, and now, the spirit of gay marriage inevitability can be told.
Democrats may regret hitting their button for a time, but I assure you, Republicans would regret hitting it for a much, much longer time.