It was back in 2005 and the Senate Democratic minority was using the filibuster to prevent votes on several Bush judicial nominees. So heated was the debate that the GOP was considering a change to “Senate rules through procedural maneuvers to prevent the tactic from being used.” This was known as the “nuclear option.”
Democrats had filibustered 10 Bush judicial nominees at that point. Republicans held a majority, but it was well short of the 60 votes they need to break a filibuster and force an up or down vote on the blocked nominees. And that’s all they wanted, they said—of course, the simple Republican majority, through the nuclear option, would likely have resulted in confirmation. Senate Democrats felt the nominees were too radical and used the rule to prevent the votes.
In 2005, the “Gang of 14” reached a deal whereby three nominees would get their votes while Democrats would continue to block two others. At the time, there were many Republicans who wanted an end to the filibuster because they saw the Democratic minority as abusing it, which prevented the Senate from fulfilling its advice and consent role on judicial appointments.
Fast forward to 2012 and it was the GOP minority in the Senate using the filibuster to stall votes on Democratic nominees. And it was then the Democrats who wanted to reform filibuster rules to “prevent abuses.”
As editor Ramesh Ponnuru wrote, “The filibuster makes hypocrites of everyone in Washington.”
Then came Sen. Rand Paul’s now famous/infamous filibuster. Paul took to the Senate floor and, along with a few colleagues, spoke for a half day to delay a confirmation vote for the new CIA director. In his speech, he made his case against the use of drones to attack US citizens on US soil.
To some, a star was born; but to others, Paul had violated Senate decorum. Fellow senators in his own party criticized him, particularly Sen. John McCain, who called Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz “wacko birds.” So, in a bit of irony, there may be bipartisan movement toward filibuster reform as a rift has emerged between the GOP’s established senators and its young stars. Now it’s time to see if the “old guard” disdain of Paul’s filibuster extends to the tactic’s use with regard to appointments.