In 2009, when the new Obama administration decided to make heath care reform its first goal, President Obama was under the misguided notion that he could work with Republicans. Not that he wasn’t warned. Then Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his gang of obstructionists made it very clear the day after Obama won the …
Feb 02 2021
Fool Me Once
Apr 05 2017
The End of the Tunnel
The 100 year old cloture rule that required 60 votes to pass bills and confirm judges and many of the president’s appointments may be in its final death throws. It came into formal existence just before World War I when several senators objected to a bill that would have armed American merchant marine vessels. Senator …
Dec 09 2016
Of Shoes And Ships And Sealing-Wax
The government may be facing a shutdown by the Senate Democrats and with good reason. It seems the House Republicans, in passing a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government operational through April 2017, removed two provisions that could result in a filibuster in the Senate. Those provisions would protect the health coverage of retired …
Mar 15 2015
Congressional Game of Chicken: Human Trafficking Victims Taken Hostage By the Senate GOP
With the Republicans now in charge of the Senate, the filibuster games continue with the shoe on the other foot. Although I have to say, the Democrats have used it to stop the more egregious legislation that the Republicans have tried to pass. By attaching controversial riders to popular bills, such as their fight with the White House over immigration getting attached to the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, the GOP leadership didn’t expect the tactic to backfire in the press and public opinion. The Republicans may have gerrymandered themselves into being in charge but that doesn’t mean they have the capacity to lead or public support.
The Senate GOP current hostages are the victims of human trafficking and Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch. A popular bipartisan bill to aid victims of human trafficking has been held up by the Democrats in the Senate when they discovered that the Republicans had surreptitiously added an anti-choice amendment that would restrict funding for abortions.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, which would establish a fund to raise money for victims from the fees charged to traffickers, wasn’t supposed to be controversial. It has supporters on both sides of the aisle and easily passed the House earlier this year. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have urged members of their parties to support the legislation.
But this week, top Democrats learned that the bill includes language modeled after the Hyde Amendment, which restricts public funding for abortion procedures. The new fund created for trafficking victims would be subject to the same restrictions that currently prevent the public Medicaid program from using federal dollars to finance abortion coverage. [..]
Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid’s office, said the proposed language in the trafficking bill would actually go beyond Hyde’s current scope by including fees and fines, instead of just taxpayer funds. He believes that “could lead to a dramatic expansion of abortion restrictions in future years.” [..]
Reproductive rights groups have also harshly criticized the abortion provision in the bill, accusing Republicans of playing politics with the vulnerable victims of human trafficking. They point out that victims often need access to abortion services because they have been subject to sexual violence, so a fund designed to help them shouldn’t cut off resources related to abortion.
Needless to say, the Democrat’s filibuster of a second bill, with unpopular provisions, in as many months is not sitting well with Senate Majority Leader Mitch “The Human Hybrid Turtle” McConnell who went on CNN’s “State of the Union” and told host Dana Bash that the consideration of Loretta Lynch would not happen until the trafficking bill passed.
McConnell told Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Lynch’s nomination will remain in a holding pattern until Democrats allow the trafficking bill to move forward.
“This will have an impact on the timing of considering the new attorney general. Now, I had hoped to turn to her next week, but if we can’t finish the trafficking bill, she will be put off again,” he said.
He argued it was a non-controversial bill that came out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously. He noted the language Democrats are objecting to was part of the legislation from the beginning of its consideration.
“They all voted for the very same language in a bill in December,” he said. “This is boilerplate language that has been in the law for almost 40 years that they all voted for three months ago in another bill.”
Sen. McConnell’s claim that the Democrats knew about the anti-abortion provision and knowingly voted for it is [disputed by the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee :
“These provisions, my caucus did not know about,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday. “The bill will not come off this floor as long as that [abortion] language is in it.”
Even Democrats on the Judiciary Committee said they had no idea the abortion provision was in the bill. Some suggested they had been misled.
“There was a representation that the controversial provision was not included in this bill. It turns out that it was,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a Judiciary Committee member. “I don’t know how that happened or who was the author of it.”
“A list was sent to certain members saying, ‘Here are the changes from last year.’ This provision was not listed among them,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), also a Judiciary Committee member.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee’s ranking member, chastised his GOP colleagues for using “debates about some of the most vulnerable among us to advance their own political agenda.”
Needles to say the Democrats, so far, aren’t caving to this latest GOP blackmail:
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, slammed McConnell for further delaying Lynch.
“For months and months, Republicans have failed to move forward with her nomination using any excuse they can, except for any credible objection to her nomination itself. It’s time for Republicans to stop dragging their feet on Loretta Lynch,” he said in a statement Sunday morning.
Adam Jentleson, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) spokesman, accused McConnell of backtracking on his pledge to schedule Lynch for a vote.
The GOP hates Attorney General Eric Holder, who has already said his goodbyes, but they have held up Ms. Lynch’s nomination for 128 days, longer than any other Attorney General nominee. This might not be so bad since Ms. Lynch may not be the best choice to replace Mr. Holder considering her dubious ties to Wall Street and the banks. Her slap on the wrist agreement without criminal charges in the HSBC money laundering case would be a good reason to reject her. Now, the question is will the Democrats sacrifice her to protect the right to an abortion for victims of human trafficking. Stay tuned to see who blinks first.
Nov 22 2013
Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Has Been Mortally Wounded
Filibuster has suffered a mortal wound. In an historic vote, the Senate drastically change the game by eliminating the need for 60 votes to confirm a presidential nominee to executive and judiciary, ending at least some of the obstruction by Republicans that has hampered President Barack Obama’s administration. The final straw that changed the mind of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-VT) was the filibuster of the last three court appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, regarded as second only to the Supreme Court in influence, it plays a central role in upholding or knocking down federal regulations. The court was evenly divided between Democratic and Republican appointed judges with three vacancies that the Republicans were determined to keep vacant, along with the other 90 court vacancies, so long as Barack Obama was in the Oval Office. Thinking that Reid would never go “nuclear” and lacked the votes, the Republicans overplayed their hand angering the Democratic holdouts against limiting the filibuster. The changes will apply to all 1,183 executive branch nominations that require Senate confirmation, not just cabinet positions but hundreds of high- and mid-level federal agency jobs and government board seats. Needless to say, the Republicans are angry, as this also puts into play the possibility of ending filibuster altogether.
With filibuster gone, there is still an obstacle for judicial appointments known as the “blue slip rule.” As Kevin Drum explains at Mother Jones:
One of the Senate’s oldest traditions is that judicial nominees require approval from their home-state senators before they can move forward, and that approval comes in the form of a blue slip returned to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. [..]
Pre-1994: Generally speaking, only one blue-slip is needed for a nominee to move forward.
1995-2000: Republicans take control of Senate and decide that two blue slips should be required. This makes it easier to kill Clinton nominees.
2001: George Bush is elected president. Republicans no longer want to make it easy to block nominees, so they return to the rule that only one blue-slip is required to move forward.
2001-02: Jim Jeffords defects, putting Democrats back in control of the Senate. They return to the rule requiring two blue-slips to proceed.
2003: Republicans win back control of the Senate. They up the ante by effectively moving to a zero blue-slip rule: they’ll allow hearings on nominees even if no senators return blue-slips. Democrats threaten to filibuster over this rather obvious abuse of power and insist on a return to the two blue-slip rule.
2007-Present: Democrats win control of the Senate and Pat Leahy of Vermont becomes chairman of the Judiciary Committe. Leahy is a traditionalist who maintains the two blue-slip rule.
By maintaining this rule, Sen. Leahy hurts Obama’s nominees in red states where aggressive Republican refuse to approve even moderate judges.
As Chairman of this Committee, I have steadfastly protected the rights of the minority. I have done so despite criticism from Democrats. I have only proceeded with judicial nominations supported by both home state Senators. That has meant that we are not able to proceed on current nominees from Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Louisiana. I even stopped proceedings on a circuit court nominee from Kansas when the Kansas Republican Senators reversed themselves and withdrew their support for the nominee. I had to deny the Majority Leader’s request to push a Nevada nominee through Committee because she did not have the support of Nevada’s Republican Senator. I will put my record of consistent fairness up against that of any Judiciary chairman.
Perhaps this was why, even as a traditionalist, Sen. Leahy voted to change the filibuster rule.
On MSNBC’s All In, host Chris Hayes discusses the new rules and the history of filibuster with Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tim Kaine (D-VA); former spokesman for Sen. Reid Jim Manley; and former Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin.
Nov 21 2013
Congressional Game of Chicken: Harry Finally Did It
After months of Republican obstruction, the Senate Democrats voted to end the need for 60 votes to bring the name of a executive or judicial nominee to the floor for approval. The vote to end filibuster passes 52 to 48 with three Democrats voting against the change, Senator Carl Levin (MI), Joe Manchin (WV) and Mark Pryor (AR).
With the rare presence of all 100 senators seated and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) presiding as the president pro tempore, the change began when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called up the nomination of Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for another vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then called for a five hour recess for time to find a resolution to void the rules change. That motion failed 46 – 54.
Reid opened debate in the morning by saying that it has become “so, so very obvious” that the Senate is broken and in need of rules reform. He rolled through a series of statistics intended to demonstrate that the level of obstruction under President Barack Obama outpaced any historical precedent.
Half the nominees filibustered in the history of the United States were blocked by Republicans during the Obama administration; of 23 district court nominees filibustered in U.S. history, 20 were Obama’s nominees, and even judges that have broad bipartisan support have had to wait nearly 100 days longer, on average, than President George W. Bush’s nominees.
“It’s time to change before this institution becomes obsolete,” he said, citing scripture — “One must not break his word” — in accusing Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) of breaking his promise to work in a more bipartisan fashion.
McConnell responded to Reid by changing the subject to the Affordable Care Act and accusing Democrats of trying to distract Americans from the law’s troubled rollout. Getting around to fidelity, McConnell noted that Reid had said in July that “we’re not touching judges,” yet he was now choosing to do so. Reid casually brushed off his suit coat and sat down.
The Senate has finally put a partial end to a stupid rule that was originally intended to extend debate not block it. Now that the Democrats have shown some spine, the next move is to end the 60 vote threshold altogether.
Nov 21 2013
Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Reform May Have Met Its Time
Yes, I know. It deja vu all over again, as Yogi would say. Lucy will snatch the football away again and whatever cliche that fits. Only this time the Republicans have boxed themselves in with their arguments over their blocking of President Barack Obama’s last three judicial appointments to the vacancies on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. This is Greg Sargent’s assessment after the last filibuster of nominee Robert Wilkins, who is currently a U.S. District Court judge in Washington.
Senator Harry Reid appears set to go nuclear – before Thanksgiving. [..]
Reid has concluded Senate Republicans have no plausible way of retreating from the position they’ve adopted in this latest Senate rules standoff, the aide says. Republicans have argued that in pushing nominations, Obama is “packing” the court, and have insisted that Obama is trying to tilt the court’s ideological balance in a Democratic direction – which is to say that the Republican objection isn’t to the nominees Obama has chosen, but to the fact that he’s trying to nominate anyone at all.
Reid believes that, having defined their position this way, Republicans have no plausible route out of the standoff other than total capitulation on the core principle they have articulated, which would be a “pretty dramatic reversal,” the aide continues.
“They’ve boxed themselves in – their position allows them no leeway,” the aide says, in characterizing Reid’s thinking. “This is not a trumped up argument about the qualification of a nominee. They are saying, `we don’t want any nominees.'”
The aide says Reid believes he now has 51 Dem Senators behind a rules change, if it comes down to it. The Huffington Post reports that some Dem Senators who have previously opposed changing the rules – such as Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein – are now open to it. “I believe that we are there,” the aide tells me.
With Boxer, Feinstein and Pat Leahy (D-VT) aboard, even if Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are noncommittal and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) firmly opposed, Reid ]may well have the 51 votes to reform. Reid met Wednesday with the advocates of reform and an invitation went out from Reid for a meeting on Thursday to discuss the rules change.
In an interview with The Huffington Post on Wednesday, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), one of the loudest champions of narrowing the filibuster, insisted that this wouldn’t be yet another instance of the football being placed invitingly in front of Charlie Brown’s foot. After a showdown this January resulted in a toothless set of procedural changes and another standoff this summer resulted in a fleeting pact between the parties, Democrats are beyond frustrated, the Oregon Democrat said. [..]
Aides on the Hill are equally adamant that this isn’t some big bluff on Reid’s part. One top aide told The Huffington Post that even if Republicans simply allowed for up-and-down votes on the president’s three nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the nexus of this current filibuster fight) it wouldn’t dramatically alter the party’s thinking.
Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s All In, discussed why Harry Reid should use the nuclear option with Senator Jeff Merkley Dahlia Lithwick and Alan Frumin.
Reid is expected to move on reform before Thanksgiving. It could come as early as Friday. I am not holding my breath.
Nov 13 2013
Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Reform Discussed Again
The side show over filibuster and Republican obstruction of President Barack Obama’s appointments to cabinet positions and to vacant seats on the bench, especially to the DC Circuit which hears some of the most important constitutional cases, has once again begun amidst the main event of the failure the roll out of the ACA. Senate Republicans filibustered a judicial nomination to the DC Circuit Court
President Obama’s latest choice to fill one of the vacancies on a powerful appeals court went down in a filibuster on Tuesday as Senate Republicans blocked another White House nominee – the third in two weeks – and deepened a growing conflict with Democrats over presidential appointments.
By a vote of 56 to 41, the nomination of Cornelia T. L. Pillard, a Georgetown law professor, fell short of clearing the necessary 60-vote threshold. [..]
The disagreements carried over onto the Senate floor on Tuesday, as Democrats accused Republicans of blocking a perfectly qualified woman for political purposes, while Republicans said Democrats were desperately looking for a wedge issue.
Looming underneath their disagreements about Ms. Pillard is the likelihood – which appeared to grow considerably on Tuesday – that the fight will escalate and result in a change to the Senate rules to limit the minority party’s ability to filibuster judicial nominees.
Senator Richard J. Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, warned Republicans that they were pushing the Senate dangerously close to a tipping point.
The Republicans attempt to reframe the argument saying that the DC Circuit isn’t as busy as other courts such as the 2nd Circuit in New York. The court handles most of the legal challenges to federal agencies, putting it at the center of fights over regulations – including the healthcare reform law and Obama’s push to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. After Tuesday’s vote, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) said, “We’re going by the standards that Democrats set in 2006.”
Their strategy: lock in the current 4-4 court by eliminating the empty seats and redistributing them to other circuits, because some other courts (ones that aren’t the first recourse for people suing Congress over legislation) have more cases. “In 2012, there were 512 ‘administrative appeals’ filed in D.C.,” said Grassley on Tuesday. “In the 2nd Circuit, there were 1,493. Stated differently, in D.C. there were only 64 administrative appeals per active judge. The 2nd Circuit has nearly twice as many with 115.”
That framing, which seemed like a stretch-no one also denies that the D.C. Circuit gets more pivotal cases than the 2nd Circuit-has since been universally adopted by the right. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the sort of Republican whom Democrats like to cut deals with, has endorsed Grassley’s Court Efficiency Act because it would “bring a reasonable end to the destructive partisan fights to which both parties have contributed.” A third-party ad hitting Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor (a Gang of 14 member) right now accuses him of trying to “pack a key court with liberal judges” because he doesn’t want to eliminate the three open seats. Grassley points out that Democrats blocked a 2006 Bush nominee on the grounds that the seat didn’t need to be filled-what more evidence does he need?
“We’re going by the standards that Democrats set in 2006,” said Grassley after Tuesday’s vote. “They said that we didn’t need any more judges. And that’s exactly what I’m telling ’em, what they said! We’re just doing what they said. They set the standard and they can’t say we’re doing this because we’ve got a Democratic president, because I got a judge removed, the 12th one removed, when we had a Republican president.””
The problem with Grassley’s argument is that in 2006, the Republican’s got what they wanted. By threatening the “nuclear option,” the Democrats backed down and three very conservative, ideologues were appointed to the DC circuit. Funny how the Republicans can now support that which they opposed seven years ago.
Support for filibuster reform picked up a new supporter after the vote, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
“If the Republican caucus continues to abuse the filibuster rule and obstruct the president’s fine nominees to the D.C. Circuit, then I believe … a rules change should be in order,” Leahy said on the Senate floor, just before Republicans blocked Nina Pillard’s confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“That is not a change that I’ve wanted to see happen,” he continued. “But if Republican senators are going to hold nominees hostage without consideration of a nominee’s individual merits, drastic measures may be warranted.”
Leahy, laughing at the Republican excuse that each judge costs $1 million per year, stated the Republican government shut down cost billions of dollars that would have funded those appointments for years.
Contributing editor at the National Journal and resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Norm Ornstein laid out his reasons why it was time to stop the filibuster madness
Mel Watt was nominated by President Obama to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency-and was blocked by a Republican filibuster. The rationale that Watt was not qualified for the position was flimsy at best. If individual senators wanted to vote against him, they certainly have the right to do so on any basis. But to deny the president his choice for this post, a veteran and moderate lawmaker with sterling credentials and moral character, via filibuster, is nothing short of outrageous. Only two Republicans in the Senate, Rob Portman and Richard Burr, Watt’s colleague from North Carolina, voted for cloture.
Watt was not the only victim of a drive-by filibuster; so was Patricia Millett, a superbly qualified and mainstream nominee for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Only two Republicans supported cloture here; Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, and three others voted “present” (which was no help, since anything but a vote for cloture is meaningless with a rule requiring 60 votes, period, to end debate). The rationale here was even more flimsy than that used against Watt, namely that Obama is trying to “pack” the D.C. Circuit. FDR tried to “pack” the Supreme Court by adding seats to the existing Court. Barack Obama is moving to fill long-standing vacancies on the D.C. Circuit. On this Circuit, thanks to a slew of retired judges appointed by presidents long gone, conservatives have an edge that Mitch McConnell is determined to keep no matter what.
When Harry Reid and McConnell reached a deal on filibusters in January, it was clear that a key component of that deal was that Republicans in the Senate would give due deference to a newly reelected president in his executive nominations, and would only oppose judicial nominations for courts of appeals under “extraordinary circumstances,” which clearly means judges without clear qualifications or experience, or extreme ideologies. No one could accuse Millett of either of those characteristics. This is all about denying a president the right to pick judges to fill existing vacancies. Two more nominees for the D.C. Circuit are coming up soon, the real test of whether Republicans will continue to flout the January agreement and threaten fundamental comity in the Senate. [..]
If the other two D.C. Circuit nominees are filibustered and blocked, I would support Harry Reid’s move to change the rules now, to move from a 60-vote requirement to stop debate and vote to a 40-vote requirement to continue debate. The argument that if he does so, Republicans will do the same thing when they take the White House and Senate is a bad one: Can anyone doubt that McConnell would blow up the filibuster rule in a nanosecond if he had the ability to fill all courts with radical conservatives like Janice Rogers Brown for decades to come? I hope it does not come to this-and that the problem solvers in the Senate keep their titles, preserve their institution, and stop the filibuster madness.
But does Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have the votes? Even with Leahy’s support this time, there may not be the 51 votes needed.
“If we can’t move ahead based on how the procedures have been perverted, we need to fix the procedures. That’s the deal,” said Larry Cohen, president of Communications Workers of America, which is leading a coalition lobbying for changes to filibuster rules.
Cohen said Reid “is willing” to change the rules but “the question is whether the leader can get 50 Democrats, not 49 or 48, to sustain that motion.”
A senior Democratic aide said Reid has not conducted a recent whip count and questioned how outside groups or rank-and-file Democratic senators would know the vote count if the leader attempted a rule change immediately.
“Any declarative statements at this point are extremely premature,” said the senior aide.
A cloture vote on the nomination on Robert Wilkins, a third nominee to the court, will be held in the near future. The Republicans have already indicated that his nomination will also be filibustered. We’ll see if reform of this antiquated, misused rule gains more support after that.
Jul 16 2013
Congressional Game of Chicken: Compromise? Reached On Presidential Nominees
Harry and the Democrats have once again backed off fixing the unconstitutional filibuster rule in the Senate that has allowed the minority party to stall everything from nominees to offices, the bench and passing legislation this session.
A tentative agreement to avert reforming filibuster on presidential nominees to administrative positions was reached during the night on an unusual private session between the two caucuses.
The deal, which was negotiated primarily between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), was described by a Senate Democratic aide as one in which the Republican Party will allow votes to confirm the seven executive nominees, provided that Obama replaces his two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board with two other names. Those nominees would have a commitment “in writing” from GOP leadership to get a vote, the Democratic aide said. [..]
Getting replacements for the NLRB nominees is, more or less, a face-saving measure for the GOP leadership. Republicans had argued that the nominees, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, were irrevocably tainted because Obama elevated them as recess appointments, which were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Democrats countered that such taint would have been wiped away had Block and Griffin received a clean vote by the Senate. [..]
Under the proposed deal between the two parties, which the Democratic aide cautioned was “not final yet” as of 11:00 a.m., Reid would also retain the right to consider rules reform in the future. There are “no conditions or restrictions on future action whatsoever,” the aide said. Another aide confirmed that position.
According news reports from aids, Reid had stopped talking to minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, choosing instead to broker a deal through McCain.
The cloture vote on Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was taken late this morning, passing 79 – 29 thus ending the filibuster on his nomination. Final confirmation will take place later today.
There are some Democrats not satisfied with the tentative deal over Block and Gross:
Republicans have balked as the question to whether their recess appointments are constitutional awaits a Supreme Court decision this fall. Instead, Republicans are hoping to slot in two new Democratic-chosen NLRB members in place of Block and Griffin, a move sure to rile up the liberal wing of the party.
Democrats tried to come up with some potential replacement for Block and Griffin over the weekend, but have been unsuccessful up to this point. [..]
Some veteran Democrats, however, are standing by Block and Griffin, and are urging Reid and the White House not to cave to GOP pressure, as are labor leaders.
“If it’s a deal that somehow carves out Sharon Block and Richard Griffin from going on the NLRB, then I am going to be standing up. Because I think it would be grossly unfair to throw them out simply to make a deal,” declared Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). “Until the Supreme Court decides it, they have every right to be where they are.”
The Democratic leadership is concerned with threats made by Republicans that if they win the Senate in 2014, they would change the Senate rules in such a way as to completely block any presidential nominees and enable them to push though their agenda. The question is what is to stop them from doing this anyway? Does anyone really believe that a Republican led senate would tolerate a Democratic minority obstructing their agenda? Republicans have already threatened random acts of obstruction should Democrats exercise the option. But, truthfully, how much more obstructive can they get?
If the Democrats expect to get anything done or anyone confirmed to the bench before they lose their majority, they needed to do it now.
Jul 12 2013
Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Reform Is Back
Once again Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is rumbling about reforming filibuster as the GOP minority continues to block confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominees for key administration offices. On Thursday, Reid took to the floor of the senate slamming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for breaking his word on confirmations.
This latest confrontation is over seven pending nominees, including leaders for the Labor Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, a consumer protection agency and vacancies to a politically important labor law oversight board. While Republicans signaled a path to confirmation for the EPA and Labor nominees, the parties remained at loggerheads over Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). McConnell objected to trying to confirm officials already on the board who were “unlawfully” appointed in a recess session. If the Senate fails to act on the nominees for the NLRB, it will cease to function at the end of August. The rules change that is being proposed would not effect judicial nominees which would still be subject to filibuster
McConnell shot back calling this stand off the “darkest days of the senate” and, on his campaign Facebook page posted an image of Reid’s tombstone with the words “Killed the Senate.” While Reid agreed to a closed door private conversation in the Old Senate Chambers with all the Senators, it was after a 75 minute private meeting with McConnell, that Reid emerged adamantly stating that he wanted the nominees approved, or the rules changed.
One of the proponents of reforming filibuster, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), circulated a memo to his Democratic colleagues on the history of filibuster, countering the Republican cries of that the rules change would be “unprecedented”:
“The notion that changing Senate procedure with a simple majority vote is ‘changing the rules by breaking the rules’ is an absolute falsehood,” reads the memo, which was provided to The Huffington Post. “Indeed, the Senate appears to have changed its procedures by simple majority … 18 times since 1977, an average of once every other year.”
Merkley is working with Reid, who appears to be more committed to reform this time. One anonymous aid advocating for reform said he believed that Reid had the 51 votes which could include Vice Pres. Joe Biden as the “51st” vote to break a tie.
Reid has called for a cloture vote on the nominees for next week. Being a skeptic about Reid’s leadership and his resolve in the past on reform, I’ll believe it when it happens.