Posted tagged ‘filibuster’

Sense Of History

July 16, 2013

Senator Harry Reid says he is laying down the gauntlet.  Either the Republican minority allow an up or down vote on 6 Presidential executive branch appointees or he will ask his Democrat colleagues to change Senate rules.  This issue shows the Senate at its dysfunctional best.  Where are the grown ups?

Filibusters are designed to protect strong minority views from being trampled by a simple majority vote.  This feature is a marvelous gift from our founding fathers and was meant to provide protection for minority opinions… on important matters.  The filibuster was not intended to block appointment of executive department heads just because the current Senate members do not like a certain department.  If they do not like the department’s duties, then change the law.

The GOP has been sliding down a slippery slope since 2008 when they determined that just saying no was a way to block President Obama proposed activities.   Not surprisingly, just saying “no” carries with it apparently unforeseen consequences.  To be effective, more and more nominees had to be blocked, even those clearly qualified and deserving.  Departments, some with no controversy, must be left leaderless.  Hmmm.

As a consequence, the Senate role of advise and consent becomes laughable and meaningless.  The GOP has consequently put Democrats in the position of either accepting a meaningless Senate or changing the rules which have historically protected both Democrats and Republicans when they were in the minority.

It seems like a no brainer decision to me.

The best outcome I could imagine (other than the GOP changing its ways) is that Senate Democrats would vote to change the rules, and having accomplished the requirement of a simple majority on executive appointments, Harry Reid would resign as Senate Majority leader.   If not, we can look forward to the next Supreme Court nominee waiting until hell freezes over hoping to get confirmation.



Senate Rules

April 16, 2010

As President Obama nears his choice for the next Supreme Court nominee, a chorus of “no’s” arises from far and wide. While most of that comes from the general public, Republican Senators are seizing the moment to champion these opponents of a yet unnamed or identified nominee. These Republican leaders possess some really impressive skills, it seems to me.

Senator Mitch McConnell has already threatened a filibuster if the candidate is an activist or would not follow the law. (Apparently when the trio of Roberts, Alito, and Scalia hijacked the Court recently and reversed 100 years of precedent about whether a corporation has free speech, this does not count as activism.) Senator Orin Hatch has also hinted at a filibuster under extreme circumstances.

For sure, some of these utterances are pure pandering. Most Republicans, and certainly all who make these public pronouncements are running in very conservative districts. Objections to judges and justices proposed by a progressive President should be expected.

The Senate’s rule of 60 votes to break a filibuster is designed to protect the rights of minorities. Fair is fair.

Protecting the rights of a minority, however, does not mean that unless the nominee supports the minority position, there can be no nominee. If that were so, there would no longer be a Democracy here.

Should President Obama’s next nominee run into an ideological stalemate and the Senate process grind to a halt, I wonder whether Republicans will be able to list their objections clearly so that the average American can understand why the nominee is unfit? Or, will they rely on the old obscenity definition of “I know it when I see it”?

This nomination (as well as all the lower court judges that are currently held up) represent an important usurping of principles protecting our governance process. Like it or not, former President George W Bush got to name his choices and so should President Obama. While there is the chance there could be objection with merit, objections because someone is progressive or conservative are not meritorious.

Control of the courts is clearly important to conservatives and most likely because conservative judges and justices will interpret the law, and will do so in a way favorable to conservatives.