Yesterday Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid broke the Senate rules to change them by executing the so-called nuclear option. Senator Reid did this based on a lie that President Obama’s nominees were being blocked at “unprecedented” levels. The truth is President George W. Bush's nominees were treated worse.
Even liberal columnists at the Washington Post are upset at Reid’s unprecedented maneuver to pave the way for President Obama’s DC Circuit power grab to advance his agenda.
Ruth Marcus in an article writes “In filibuster fight, the Democrats go too far”:
Judges are different, and this is where the Democrats erred. Their move — unlike previous proposals — eliminated the filibuster except for Supreme Court nominees. The simple reason for subjecting judicial nominees to a higher hurdle for approval: lifetime tenure.
This is not to argue that filibusters should be routine or that Republicans were justified in the frequent deployment of a tactic they once denounced. But there are circumstances, even outside the context of the Supreme Court, in which a judicial nominee might be so outside the mainstream or otherwise unqualified that filibustering would be justified.
Republicans will be empowered to pick more conservative judges, Democrats more liberal ones. Perhaps this will make for a more vibrant judiciary. I fear it will create one that is more polarized and possibly less well-qualified.
The rules change also marks a fundamental and unappreciated shift of power from the Senate to the executive branch. Would the Senate now be weighing the nomination of Larry Summers for Federal Reserve chairman if the new rules had been in place? Have senators fully thought this through?
Another Post columnist Dana Milibank quotes Democrats in “The Democrats’ Naked Power Grab”:
[Biden in 2005:] “The nuclear option abandons America’s sense of fair play . . . tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field. I say to my friends on the Republican side: You may own the field right now, but you won’t own it forever. I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.”
Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.), one of just three Democrats who opposed his colleagues’ naked power grab, read those words on the Senate floor Thursday after Reid invoked the nuclear option. The rumpled Levin is not known for his oratory. But he is retiring next year and free to speak his mind — and his words were potent.
“We need to change the rules, but to change it in the way we changed it today means there are no rules except as the majority wants them,” Levin said. “This precedent is going to be used, I fear, to change the rules on consideration of legislation, and down the road — we don’t know how far down the road; we never know that in a democracy — but, down the road, the hard-won protections and benefits for our people’s health and welfare will be lost.”
The word “historic” is often tossed around in Washington, but this change ends a tradition dating to the earliest days of the republic. For the nation’s first 118 years, there were no limits on debate in the Senate. After 1917, cutting off debate, or reaching “cloture,” required a two-thirds majority. In 1975, that threshold was reduced to 60 of 100 votes. Even that lower minimum required lawmakers to cooperate with each other.
Senate Democrats with President Obama’s permission killed bipartisanship yesterday. Some red state Democrat Senators will pay the price in 2014.