Politics

Senate Democrats detonate “nuclear option” barring nominee filibusters

Senate Democrats detonate "nuclear option" barring nominee filibusters

Today the Senate “went nuclear” and changed the rules for executive nominees and judicial appointments, throwing out two centuries of precedent to make it possible to confirm those nominees (but not, it should be noted, Supreme Court justices) on a simple majority vote.

President Obama issued a powerful statement condemning this change.  ”If the right of free and open debate is taken away from the minority party and the millions of Americans who ask us to be their voice, I fear the partisan atmosphere in Washington will be poisoned to the point where no one will be able to agree on anything,” he thundered.  ”That does not serve anybody’s best interest, and it certainly is not what the patriots who founded this democracy had in mind. We owe the people who sent us here more than that. We owe them much more.”

Vice President Joe Biden was equally opposed to the nuclear option, fondly recalling his vote against such a proposal back in 2005 as “the single most significant vote” of his Senate career.  ”We should make no mistake,” Biden cautioned.  ”This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power.  It is a fundamental power grab by the majority party.”

“The nuclear option abandons America’s sense of fair play,” Biden added.  ”It is the one thing this country stands for: not tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field.”  He cautioned that the majority should have remembered that it wouldn’t own that playing field forever, and should thus have avoided the “naked power grab” represented by this change to Senate procedure.

Former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton, widely viewed as the front-running Democrat candidate for the presidency in 2016, was unsparing in her criticism of today’s rule change: “If you cannot get 60 votes for a nominee, maybe you should think about who you are sending to be confirmed.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fought the “nuclear option” to the bitter end.  His strong and principled opposition reached deep into the roots of American history, as Reid powerfully evoked the wisdom of the Founding Fathers to explain why the filibuster was so important.  ”For 200 years we’ve had the right to extended debate,” Reid argued.  ”It’s not some procedural gimmick. It’s within the vision of the founding fathers of our country.  They did it; we didn’t do it.  They established a government so that no one person and no single party could have total control.”

Reid described the push to end these filibusters as a “quest for absolute power,” chastising those who demanded the nuclear option for thinking they are “wiser than our Founding Fathers.”  He added sarcastically, “I doubt that’s true.”

So how in the world did this enormous change in the Senate rules get passed despite opposition from President Obama, Vice President Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Majority Leader Reid?  Simple: they’re a pack of nauseating liars and hypocrites, hell-bent to grab the “absolute power” Reid described before they get booted out of the majority in 2014.  All the quotes above came from years gone by, when Democrats were in the minority.

Today, the odious Harry Reid didn’t have much to say about the Founding Fathers and their vision of checks, balances, and extended debate.  He very much wants one person, the increasingly dictatorial Barack Obama, and his Party to have total control.  He also very much wants everyone to stop talking about the ObamaCare disaster.  Democrats desperately needed a distraction, a political win, and enough power to set the table before they risk becoming a Senate minority in the next election.  They changed the rule on a party-line vote, 52-48, actually losing three of their number – Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas – who sided with the Republican opposition.

“The need for change is so very, very obvious,” said Reid, railing against Republican “obstructionism.”  Funny, it wasn’t obvious to him back when he was leading a bitterly partisan minority that blocked some 23 of President Bush’s appointments.

It’s anyone’s guess how today’s Senate drama will play with the American people.  It’s not going to restore a single one of the five million insurance policies ObamaCare has killed, is it?  This might not have been the best time for Democrats to make a desperate power grab in the name of giving unchallenged power to the Lyin’ King.  No doubt they craved the opportunity to posture against Republican “obstructionism,” but right now most of the country is wishing to God there had been more of that obstructionism in the air when Reid was busy ramming ObamaCare through the Senate with sleazy backroom deals.  The public may not be terribly concerned about the shortage of far-left judicial appointments to D.C. courts, but the Republican argument against the nuclear option – which, as demonstrated above, they can easily make by quoting top Democrats from five or six years ago – might very well move some votes.

Actually, you don’t even have to go back five years to find Democrats like Harry Reid promising never to do what he just did.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rose to the occasion with a powerful argument against the nuclear option and Democrat efforts to change the subject from ObamaCare, spiced with a beautifully delivered zinger:

The Democrats don’t seem to have taken full account of how ridiculous their transparent hypocrisy would make them look.  This is not a good moment for them to become figures of absurdity again.

Hillary Clinton actually did an excellent job of succinctly explaining why the filibuster is important.  The minority party is not meant to sit on the sidelines like passive observers while the majority pushes through everything it wants, without concern for the people represented by their opponents.  David Harsanyi noted the temptation for whichever side happens to be in power to denounce the influence of the minority party as obstructionist: “It’s a ‘different world’ because the party administering checks on power happens to be the wrong one.”  Writing before today’s vote, he made a good point about the probable fallout from the nuclear option:

So the question is: would Reid really going to blow up the Senate for some D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judges? It seems improbable. But if he does, the GOP, should they ever return to power, will have the justification it needs to undo Obamacare – or pretty much anything they please – with their own majority. If the filibuster is neither sacred nor a check on power, there is no reason for legislation or cabinet nominees to be immune from the up-or-down vote. It’s going to mean a lot less stability in DC, a lot more seesawing legislation, and more severe partisanship than anyone in the Senate could possibly desire.

This may already be proving to be prescience on David’s part, because President Obama’s statement on the nuclear option – he approves, of course, and commands you to forget everything he ever said about it prior to 2009 – rambled into all sorts of things that have nothing to do with judicial nominees and executive appointments.  Either Obama is bizarrely misinformed about what Harry Reid and his lockstep caucus did today, or he’s got big plans for trimming even more power from the minority to pave the way for further “executive actions.”  That should, in turn, make it easier for Republicans to convince voters alarmed by Obama’s mendacity and disastrous policies that they need a strong Senate majority to keep him in check.

Update: Following is a complete roll call of the vote.  As mentioned above, every Republican voted against the rule change, while all but three Democrats voted in favor.

Alexander (R-TN), Nay
Ayotte (R-NH), Nay
Baldwin (D-WI), Yea
Barrasso (R-WY), Nay
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Begich (D-AK), Yea
Bennet (D-CO), Yea
Blumenthal (D-CT), Yea
Blunt (R-MO), Nay
Booker (D-NJ), Yea
Boozman (R-AR), Nay
Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Brown (D-OH), Yea
Burr (R-NC), Nay
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Cardin (D-MD), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Casey (D-PA), Yea
Chambliss (R-GA), Nay
Coats (R-IN), Nay
Coburn (R-OK), Nay
Cochran (R-MS), Nay
Collins (R-ME), Nay
Coons (D-DE), Yea
Corker (R-TN), Nay
Cornyn (R-TX), Nay
Crapo (R-ID), Nay
Cruz (R-TX), Nay
Donnelly (D-IN), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Fischer (R-NE), Nay
Flake (R-AZ), Nay
Franken (D-MN), Yea
Gillibrand (D-NY), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Nay
Grassley (R-IA), Nay
Hagan (D-NC), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Yea
Hatch (R-UT), Nay
Heinrich (D-NM), Yea
Heitkamp (D-ND), Yea
Heller (R-NV), Nay
Hirono (D-HI), Yea
Hoeven (R-ND), Nay
Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
Isakson (R-GA), Nay
Johanns (R-NE), Nay
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Johnson (R-WI), Nay
Kaine (D-VA), Yea
King (I-ME), Yea
Kirk (R-IL), Nay
Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Leahy (D-VT), Yea
Lee (R-UT), Nay
Levin (D-MI), Nay
Manchin (D-WV), Nay
Markey (D-MA), Yea
McCain (R-AZ), Nay
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Nay
Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
Merkley (D-OR), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Moran (R-KS), Nay
Murkowski (R-AK), Nay
Murphy (D-CT), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Paul (R-KY), Nay
Portman (R-OH), Nay
Pryor (D-AR), Nay
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Risch (R-ID), Nay
Roberts (R-KS), Nay
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Rubio (R-FL), Nay
Sanders (I-VT), Yea
Schatz (D-HI), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Scott (R-SC), Nay
Sessions (R-AL), Nay
Shaheen (D-NH), Yea
Shelby (R-AL), Nay
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Tester (D-MT), Yea
Thune (R-SD), Nay
Toomey (R-PA), Nay
Udall (D-CO), Yea
Udall (D-NM), Yea
Vitter (R-LA), Nay
Warner (D-VA), Yea
Warren (D-MA), Yea
Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
Wicker (R-MS), Nay
Wyden (D-OR), Yea

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