Once again Senate Republicans have broken their “handshake” agreement with Majority Leader Harry Reid to stop blocking President Obama’s appointees to his Cabinet and the federal court. When will Senate Democrats realize Republicans can’t be trusted to keep their word? It is time for the nuclear option to get rid of the filibuster.
Last week, Senate Republicans blocked confirmation of Representative Melvin Watt, a Democrat from North Carolina, to become the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. This is the first time in a long time the Senate blocked confirmation of a sitting member of Congress who has an extensive record of public service. Watt received 58 votes, more than the 51 needed for confirmation, but not enough to break a Republican filibuster.
Republicans also blocked confirmation of Patricia Ann Millett to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Ms Millett is a former government lawyer whose husband serves in the military. She served in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Republicans said Obama was trying to “tilt the balance of the Court of Appeals”. Duh! That is what voters wanted when they re-elected him. Right now because Republicans have only confirmed a single Obama appointee to the two vital DC courts--the District Court and Court of Appeals—Republican judges have a majority and there are three vacancies.
"While regular judges are split 4 to 4, Republican appointees make up 5 out of 6 senior judges, who also participate in three judge panels that decide nearly all cases,” Glenn Sugameli, Founder of Judging the Environment said. "Of President George W. Bush’s six nominees to the D.C. Circuit, four were confirmed (67%). Of President Obama’s five nominees to the D.C. Circuit, so far, only one has been confirmed (20%)," he added.
Apparently Republicans get to appoint conservative right-wing judges, but a Democratic president can’t appoint a moderate.
Earlier this year Republicans blocked the appointment of another qualified Judge for the DC Court. Another nominee for one of the three vacancies on that same Court, Robert L. Wilkins, a Federal District Court judge, is awaiting filibuster.
Vice-President Biden, who has traditionally been cautious about changing filibuster rules, seems to be getting fed up. He said “I think it’s time for some common sense on confirmations.”
“The judiciary is too important to play partisan games with,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. “And that’s exactly what’s going on here.”
At the beginning of the session, many Senate Democrats wanted to change the rules to stop the non-stop filibusters. Republicans have abused their power as a minority party by filibusters on everything meaning that the 45 Republicans in the Senate actually control the Senate because the 55 Democrats can not bring a bill up for a vote.
This is not Democracy, it is a farce.
The so-called nuclear option is a maneuver where 51 Democrats can change the Senate Rules to stop these continual filibusters and let a simple majority pass a bill except for those things where the Constitution calls for a super majority.
The argument against doing it is that Democrats will not be able to stop a Republican president like Ted Cruz from cramming radical appointees down the Democrats’ throats.
That sounds good in theory, but in practice, it has not worked out so well for Democrats. The two judges who overturned the District Court’s block of the abortion ban in Texas, and the Judge who struck down the contraception provision in Obamacare last week were Bush appointees. The filibuster did not stop them from being appointed.
Had Republicans confirmed Obama’s appointees to those two courts, the outcome would have been different. Republicans know that. They will block every appointee from here on.
“Preserving a filibuster on judicial nominees is not going to protect against judges you disagree with down the line if you’re in the minority,” Senator. Merkley said. He led efforts along with Sen Mark Udall to reform filibuster rules in January only to be blocked by Senator Reid and other Democrats.
Washington is in gridlock. Allowing Republicans to obstruct the Senate is like fighting wars for the sake of peace. If a Republican minority can control the Senate, why even run Democrats for that office?
When a Republican president nominates someone, they are confirmed because presidents are entitled to the appointees they choose. When a Democratic president nominates someone, Republicans get to filibuster them. Something is really wrong with this picture.
It is time for the nuclear option. Any duly elected president—Bush or Obama—are entitled to the appointees they want. Elections should have consequences.