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Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Daily Beast: Congress: Ben Jacobs: Harry Reid Goes Nuclear on Filibusters

The Daily Beast: Congress: Harry Reid Goes Nuclear on Filibusters 

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

Just to be perfectly clear, the Senate filibuster on executive and lower judicial nominations, meaning non-Supreme Court appointments to the federal bench have been removed from possible future filibuster challenges. Which means President Barack Obama and any other future president from either party, as long as the rule is in place, will be able to get their executive administration nominees through with just fifty-one votes. And if their party is in the Senate majority and they have a clear majority and their Senate caucus is united, the president will get their non-Supreme Court nominees through all the time.

Unless the president has bipartisan opposition against their appointments and they are clearly unqualified and both sides see that. Which is what happened to President Bush in his second term. But as long as the president has his party behind him or possibly her in the near future, the president Democrat or Republican will get their executive nominees through. Generally speaking I’m against this for both political, but also practical reasons. Because this means in the future if the Republican Party ever figures out how to win back the White House and stops nominating Far-Right Neo-Confederates to run for the Senate in swing states, they’ll get their nominees through all the time.

And that even means some pretty bad ones as President Bush did send up. But under the circumstances Senate Leader Harry Reid did the right thing, because not only were qualified nominees being denied even a vote on the Senate floor, like U.S. Representative Mell Watt, who I believe to serve run the Federal Housing Administration, the first sitting Member of Congress to be blocked because of a Senate filibuster in eighty-years to serve in the Executive Branch, but it was how these nominees have been blocked.

Senate Republicans led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Grassley, the Ranking Member on the Judiciary Committee, probably the lead strategist for the Republicans when it comes to blocking President Obama’s nominees, but it was how they were blocked. With Senate Republicans changing the rules and debate in how they obstruct. The advise and consent tradition in the Senate is pretty simple and clear.

The President nominates people to serve in his administration or to a court. The Senate gets to decide almost always by majority rule whether the nominee is qualified for the job or not. Not whether a particular senator would nominate that person or whether they believe that agency, office or court should exist. Or whether this is the right time to fill that vacancy or not. But whether the nominee is qualified for the job or not. Senate Republicans have gone way past that.

Senate Republicans have changed advise and consent to, “we’ll decide we the minority party in the U.S. Senate when the President of the United States can appoint people to his administration or a court. Based on whether or not we believe that office or agency should even exist or not and if this is the right time to fill that position”. And Senator Grassley has been very clear about this and this was the main argument. That Senate Republicans used to block nominees to the Washington, DC federal court, because they believe that court didn’t need new judges right now.

The hypocrisy in this debate from both sides is pretty clear from both sides. Senate Republicans were against filibustering executive nominees before they were for it. And now Senate Democrats were in favor of filibustering executive nominees before they were against it. Because of how Senate Republicans have changed the rules and their strategy for how they block nominees no longer based on qualifications, but when and if vacancies should be filled or not, Leader Reid didn’t have much of a choice today. Otherwise President Obama wouldn’t be able to fill key offices in the future.


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