Main Menu

“Nuclear option” invoked

The U. S. Senate changed the rules today on cloture (the shutting off of debate) in the case of executive and judicial nominations, excepting nominees to the Supreme Court. Now it takes only 51 votes (a simple majority) to end debate on a nomination from the President and force a vote. The U. S. Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent on presidential nominations by majority vote, but Senate rules allow a minority to stop or delay any action by interminable debate (the filibuster).

The occasion for the rules change was the appointment of three judges to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. The nominations were made June 4th of this year. All the committee work was done, but Republicans threatened to block a confirmation vote on the three. Barack Obama claimed at the announcement of the three last June, that his judicial appointments were taking three times as long as those for his predecessor. Politifact.com rated that statement “half true.” They wrote as part of a lengthy analysis:

Where Obama has a point is if you measure the time from the point of committee approval to confirmation — in other words, the period when the nomination is on the Senate floor, where it can be filibustered [it was 4 times as long].

Certainly news headlines like Time magazine’s “Senators Vow Confirmation Delays for Key Obama Posts” make it seem that the Republicans were playing unfairly when they wouldn’t vote on a nomination to the Federal Reserve until they got more information on Benghazi.

In fact, for executive appointments, President Obama has been slow to make them, and the Senate has been slow to confirm them, leading to some serious problems at some agencies.

I think that the President should have the power to govern and that includes making executive and judicial appointments. The Constitution only says that the Senate must advise and consent to those nominations, not that a supermajority must consent. I’ve never been comfortable with filibusters, even when my party was in the minority. There are some extraordinary situations in our history where it was the right thing to do, but in the present Congress, the threat of filibuster is everywhere. It disenfranchises me when the President I voted for can’t fill vacancies in the executive and judicial branches.

So what does this have to do with Obama conspiracy theories? The answer is that many characters we see in the Obama conspiracy story, including all of the federal judges, are presidential appointees. Just today, Republicans are complaining about “court packing” in the DC Court of Appeals, where key decisions on the Affordable Care Act could be made. Birthers say that there are no honest judges to be found.  Well, Obama has the chance to appoint some new ones now.

Learn more:

Obama responds to Senate rules change (video)

image


In preparation for this story, I learned quite a bit beyond the headlines I knew on the issue. Obama has been slow to make appointments, and the Senate has delayed uncontroversial nominees. There is blame to go around. I think this rules change is for the good.

, ,

20 Responses to “Nuclear option” invoked

  1. avatar
    Dave B. November 21, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    Maybe Jill Pryor’s nomination will finally go through.

  2. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG November 21, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    And queue the birther screams of “This is the first step toward Martial Law!!!”

  3. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG November 21, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Also, I don’t see why Republicans are having a wall-eyed fit about this, unless they’re fairly sure its gonna be a good long while before they ever hold a Senate majority again. Maybe its because, for the time being, their ability to throw a temper tantrum, because Obama “got his way”, is severely hampered now.

  4. avatar
    CarlOrcas November 21, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    I agree, Doc, I think this is a good thing. I’ve never like the filibuster (with apologies to Jimmy Stewart) and have been particularly bothered by its use to stop routine business just to mess with President Obama.

    Here are two articles that others may find helpful in understanding the situation:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/11/21/this-is-what-happened-in-the-senate-thursday-and-what-it-means-for-the-future/

    http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/11/21/21565855-hypocrisy-all-around-in-nuclear-option-debate?lite

  5. avatar
    Keith November 22, 2013 at 12:40 am #

    Dave B.:
    Maybe Jill Pryor’s nomination will finally go through.

    I think that was the first order of business immediately after the rule change.

  6. avatar
    Suranis November 22, 2013 at 6:22 am #

    It can be argued that Obama has been slow to make appointments because he knows they will just clog up the Senate filibustered backlog even more.

    Only he knows for sure though.

  7. avatar
    Andy November 22, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    I don’t mind the filibuster. The real filibuster, where one has to keep speaking in order to hold the floor.

    What I’ve loathed is the “hold” or silent filibuster – the one where the threat of an actual filibuster is enough to hold things up.

    This rules changes is for the best, though I’d rather they had simply forced real filibusters for those times when it is needed. Then you get to keep things moving (no silent holds), but can still stop the works with a really demanding filibuster if something really, really needs to be stopped.

  8. avatar
    Reality Check November 22, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    I have some admiration for Carl Levin sticking to his principles and voting against the rule change but something had to be done. On the other hand Charles Grassley was whining like a five year old child who had just had his candy bar taken away.

  9. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 22, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    I may be that Obama had difficulty finding people willing to be appointed given the obstruction they would face.

    Suranis: It can be argued that Obama has been slow to make appointments because he knows they will just clog up the Senate filibustered backlog even more.

  10. avatar
    CarlOrcas November 22, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    I may be that Obama had difficulty finding people willing to be appointed given the obstruction they would face.

    Who in their right mind would want to put themselves and their family through that?

  11. avatar
    sfjeff November 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    This is not my original thought but I do enjoy it.

    If Republicans hate this change so much, the next time they are the majority in the Senate, they can vote to give the Democrats the ability to filibuster nominations.

  12. avatar
    dunstvangeet November 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Reality Check:
    I have some admiration for Carl Levin sticking to his principles and voting against the rule change but something had to be done. On the other hand Charles Grassley was whining like a five year old child who had just had his candy bar taken away.

    Republicans in the United States Senate who supported the Nuclear Option in 2005 when their side was doing it, claiming each and every nominee deserved an up-or-down vote.

    Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
    Thad Cochran (R-MS)
    Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
    Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
    Richard Shelby (R-AL)
    Jim Inholf (R-OK)
    Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
    Mike Enzi (R-WY)
    Mike Crapo (R-ID)
    Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
    Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
    Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
    John Cornyn (R-TX)
    Richard Burr (R-NC)
    Tom Coburn (R-OK)
    John Thune (R-SD)
    Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
    David Vitter (R-LA)

    Republicans who held a consistant view:
    John McCain (R-AZ)
    Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
    Susan Collins (R-ME)

  13. avatar
    roald November 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    IIRC, the practice is for senators (or is it representatives) to identify judicial candidates for districts in their states and that those names are not forthcoming from the same party that is blocking and filibustering.

  14. avatar
    Dave B. November 22, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    That’s what’s been holding up Jill Pryor’s nomination. Georgia’s two Republican senators won’t return the “blue slips” on her. She was originally nominated on February 16, 2012. I figured this might at least get things moving.

    roald:
    IIRC, the practice is for senators (or is it representatives) to identify judicial candidates for districts in their states and that those names are not forthcoming from the same party that is blocking and filibustering.

  15. avatar
    JD Reed November 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Andrew Vrba, PmG(Quote) #
    And queue the birther screams of “This is the first step toward Martial Law!!!”
    Only they’ll spell it “marshall.”

  16. avatar
    CarlOrcas November 22, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    JD Reed:
    Andrew Vrba, PmG(Quote) #
    And queue the birther screams of “This is the first step toward Martial Law!!!”
    Only they’ll spell it “marshall.”

    Yep. Matt Dillon will be swearing in posses any time now.

  17. avatar
    Lupin November 23, 2013 at 2:35 am #

    JD Reed:
    Andrew Vrba, PmG(Quote) #
    And queue the birther screams of “This is the first step toward Martial Law!!!”
    Only they’ll spell it “marshall.”

    Marshall Law. A superb comic-book by a couple of Brits who really know how to satirize America. Much better than WATCHMEN IMHO.

  18. avatar
    JPotter November 23, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    JD Reed:
    Andrew Vrba, PmG(Quote) #
    And queue the birther screams of “This is the first step toward Martial Law!!!”
    Only they’ll spell it “marshall.”

    My favorite example of “marshall law” hand-wringing:

    Wake Up America — Marshall Law
    By David J. Stewart

    http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Evils%20in%20Government/Police%20State/marshall_law_is_here.htm

    Bonus pts for awesomely egregious domain name!

    Dude can get “liaison” right, but can’t get “martial law” ….. even when quoting others who can!

  19. avatar
    JPotter November 23, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Lupin: Marshall Law. A superb comic-book by a couple of Brits who really know how to satirize America. Much better than WATCHMEN IMHO.

    Unfortunately, the best-known character named “Marshall Law” in America is the Bruce Lee doppelganger from Tekken.

    C’mon now, Watchmen was a brilliant unmasking of the silliness of the superhero trope, not specifically a satire of America’s psyche as a whole. Also not overtly funny, whereas Marshall Law is darkly hilarious, in the great Brit tradition … Tank GirlJudge Dredd

  20. avatar
    Kiwiwriter November 25, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    I think the GOP and Tea Party’s real concern is that the judges Obama appoints will come down hard on attempts to deny the vote to people who are not male, white, right-wing Republicans.

    You let those horrible libtards, negroes, and women vote…gad! All these Tea Party wackjobs might lose their seats in the House and Senate to more moderate and liberal representatives and senators.

    And we can’t allow that…it would destroy the greatness of America and weaken us in our death struggle against the insidious menace of worldwide Communism whose clutching claws and bloody hands are even now wrapping themselves around our moral fiber and pure essence.