Harry Reid goes nuclear: Political comity is now dead
HOUSTON, November 21, 2013—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid altered over 235 years of Senate tradition by invoking the “nuclear option” and abolishing the filibuster for judicial nominees.
Democrats claimed the move as necessary to advance nominees who have been blocked for some time. This will help break the logjam.
Republicans labeled it what it was, a raw naked partisan power play.
The Founding Fathers believed in the filibuster specifically to differentiate the Senate from the House, where the minority has few rights. President George Washington compared the Senate to putting cream in coffee for the purpose of “cooling” things down when they get hot.
While many Americans lament gridlock, the Founding Fathers wanted this. Nothing getting done was the system working. They wanted fewer laws and a more difficult process to creating laws.
In 2005, Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. Then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid warned against the nuclear option. As an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama supported the right of the minority to filibuster. His entire career has been based on fairness and protecting the rights of minorities.
In 2013, President Obama gave a press conference after the nuclear vote that was long on self-righteousness and short on historical facts.
He blamed the GOP for an “unprecedented pattern of obstruction.
This is totally false. Democrats filibustered qualified judges merely for being conservative. Senator Chuck Schumer was caught on an open microphone gleefully explaining that any conservative judge would be derided as “extreme” and that ideology would absolutely be a factor in blocking a judge. Minority conservatives received special abuse, including judges Priscilla Owens, Miguel Estrada, and Janice Rogers Brown
He said the GOP should not “abuse arcane procedural tactics.
These tactics were good enough for the Founding Fathers in 1776 and the Democrats in 2005. Some say that Obama finds obeying the Constitution itself to be submitting to arcane procedural tactics.
He declared his blocked nominees to be “well-qualified patriotic Americans.” The conservative Bush judges were well-qualified patriotic Americans. Obama has a habit of nominating inferior nominees whose main qualification is sharing his hard-left ideology. Supreme Court justices Kagan and Sotomayor are only two examples of tokens lacking judicial and intellectual heft.
“Today’s pattern of obstruction isn’t normal. It isn’t what our Founders envisioned.”
It is exactly what the Founders envisioned. Obama was a lightly regarded adjunct Constitutional Law Professor who received subpar reviews from a majority of his students and colleagues. He suffers from a complete lack of understanding of how the Constitution works.
The motive for Reid’s power play is very simple. Obama said that “when Congress won’t act, I will.” Judges have blocked some of his overreach. Rather than develop humility, Obama wants to stack the courts with leftist ideologues. Ramming them through on partisan votes is fine with him. Poisoning the well for future political business is not his concern. He has a particular interest in filling judges on the Washington, DC Circuit Court since they would be ruling on his far-reaching regulatory actions.
When Democrats had total control of the government from 2009 through 2011, hard-left policies from Obmacare to Dodd-Frank were rammed through. Obamacare was passed using a budget technique known as reconciliation, which circumvented the filibuster and required 51 Senate votes instead of 60.
Now Obama will try to ram through everything from immigration reform to gun control legislation that had been blocked. While the House can stop that, they are powerless to stop judicial nominations.
Democrats are expecting to face a political bloodbath in 2014 as they did in 2010. Knowing they would lose badly in 2010 is what motivated them to pass Obamacare dishonestly. Now there is a possibility that Reid will have the Senate gavel ripped from his clenched hands in one year. Therefore he needs to ram through as many judicial nominees as possible before then.
The problem with this strategy is that one day Democrats will be in the minority. It is possible that Republicans will win in 2014 and then capture the White House in 2016. Will Republicans make the mistake of being too polite, or will they seek revenge and punish the Democrats?
The rule change does not cover Supreme Court nominees. This is to protect a possible future Obama nominee from being filibustered if the GOP captures the Senate.
When Republicans were in control, Democrats obsessed over the rights of the political minority. These Democrats have engaged in maneuvers that make America look like a third world banana republic.
Americans who wonder why the two parties cannot “come together” should understand that this go for the jugular strategy of the Democrats makes comity impossible. Many Republicans seethed over the treatment of judges Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.
The Democrats are behaving like bullies, and the only thing bullies understand is force. Like the Obamacare debacle, the backlash over this nuclear judicial maneuver will be severe. No amount of political pain inflicted upon the Democrats will be excessive. Only 51 votes will be required for a Republican President to nominate hard-right judges. When the left protests, the response will be simple and appropriate.
Elections have consequences, and you reap what you sow.
Rather than break the gridlock, Reid’s move will all but ensure that the Senate gears grind to a halt. Reid broke the trust and collegiality of the world’s deliberative body, and working with him is no longer possible or necessary. GOP opposition is now permanently hardened.
There are other ways to obstruct, and the GOP will ensure that the governance phase of the Obama presidency has now officially ended. One year from now, Reid will see the damage he wrought as election 2014 takes away his ability to abuse power once and for all.