Senate Rules for RadicalsPosted: November 22, 2013
Democrats break the filibuster in a precedent they may regret
Saul Alinsky tradition, and on Thursday they proved it with a partisan vote to break the Senate filibuster rule for confirming judges and executive-branch nominees. The new rules will empower the party’s liberals for as long as they control the White House and Senate, but they will also set a precedent for conservatives to exploit in the future.
Majority Leader Harry Reid broke a GOP filibuster of a judicial nominee on a 52-48 vote. He was prodded by the Democratic Senate classes of 2006-2012, younger liberals in a hurry like Al Franken (Minnesota), Jeff Merkley (Oregon) and Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire). These are the same liberals who enjoyed a rare 60-vote supermajority in 2009-2010 when they rammed through ObamaCare without a single Republican vote. They view the minority as an inconvenience to be rolled.
It’s true that Senators of both parties have misused the advice and consent power to make it harder for the executive branch to govern. But the great irony is that Democrats voted to end the practice of judicial filibusters that they pioneered when George W. Bush was President. As the minority from 2003-2005, Democrats demanded 60 votes to confirm executive-branch nominees like John Bolton for U.N. Ambassador.
For the first time they also insisted on 60 votes for judicial nominees Miguel Estrada, Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, Carolyn Kuhl, Henry Saad, William Pryor, David McKeague, Richard Griffin, Charles Pickering and William Gerry Myers.
Only when Republicans threatened to break the filibuster themselves in 2005 did Democrats agree to allow a vote on some judges. But Mr. Bolton was still blocked, and when Democrats regained the majority in 2007 they began a new filibuster jag to block nominees of all sorts through the end of Mr. Bush’s term. Yet now that Republicans are returning the favor, Democrats are up in arms.
The move shows how foolish Republicans like John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Orrin Hatch were to worry that if they broke the filibuster, Democrats would then do it too. Democrats did it anyway. The only way to deter bloody-minded Democratic behavior is to treat Democrats as they treat Republicans. Democrats sicced special prosecutors on GOP Presidents for years, but they gave up the independent-counsel statute only after Ken Starr investigated Bill Clinton.
The immediate result of Harry Reid’s power play will be that President Obama has a freer hand to pursue his agenda through regulation and the courts. Democrats will now rush to pack the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in particular, adding three new judges over GOP objection to a court that is already underworked.
They will also confirm Mel Watt as the chief regulator for Fannie Mae FNMA-6.51% and Freddie Mac. FMCC -4.18% Mr. Watt, who will have almost unlimited power as government conservator, will proceed to allow principal writedowns on underwater mortgages before the 2014 election. And he will begin to finance an “affordable housing trust fund” for liberal groups that dole out subsidies to Democratic voters and harass businesses with lawsuits.
Mr. Obama also hopes to limit successful legal challenges to his rule-by-regulation. The D.C. Circuit will now have more liberal judges to hear challenges to his unilateral climate-change power grab or his rewrite by fiat of the Affordable Care Act.
The silver lining is that the end of the nominee filibuster will work for conservatives too. The next time they hold the Senate and White House, Republicans should employ the same weapon. Democrats are pretending that they are only breaking the filibuster for lower-court nominees, not for the Supreme Court. They can dream on.
The next GOP President should line up Federalist Society alumni for judicial nominations like planes waiting to take off at O’Hare International Airport. Imagine two or three more Clarence Thomases on the High Court confirmed with 51 Senate votes. Planned Parenthood can send its regrets to Harry Reid.
Mr. Reid’s new rules for Senate radicals are also a warning of what Democrats will do if they retake the House in 2014. They will surely break any GOP filibuster that could block key liberal legislation so President Obama can go out with a reprise of his first two years. Forget about a filibuster stopping union card-check, for example.
ObamaCare would never have passed if Mr. Franken hadn’t stolen the Minnesota recount and prosecutors hadn’t hidden exculpatory evidence to convict Alaska Republican Ted Stevens on false ethics charges. But liberals are showing that they’ll only need 51 votes, not 60, to pass the next ObamaCare.
Conservatives have more of a stake than liberals do in the legislative filibuster as a check on the political passions of the moment. But the Democrats who rewrote Senate rules on Thursday should also understand that they have now opened the door to repeal ObamaCare with only 51 votes.
- Obama Will Pack the Court with Leftists (punditfromanotherplanet.com)
- More Stunning Hypocrisy from Harry Reid on Filibusters of Judicial Nominees (patterico.com)
- “One way or another, the filibuster of judicial nominees must end. The Senate must do what is good, what is right, what is reasonable and what is honorable.” (althouse.blogspot.com)
- Filibuster RIP (azcentral.com)