The news sites and the political blogs are all running with the surprise that Senator Reid called a vote and got the “Nuclear option” passed for Senate conformation votes on judicial (except Supreme Court) and executive department appointees. What is the “nuclear option?” It’s simply a rules change, which turns the need for a 60 vote majority to break a filibuster into a simple majority vote.
The vote overturned an existing rule that required a 60-vote majority for the approval of presidential nominees. Now, just a simple majority will be required for executive branch and judicial nominees except for Supreme Court picks.
It’s not like this is a big surprise, Senator Reid said he would do it if Republicans failed to legislate in good faith in the Senate.
Given that at various times the Republicans have called for such measures, as well as being “for it before they were against it,” it’s not surprising that now they’re screaming their heads off. There’s a predictable screaming going on over at conservative blogs, with the usual “dictatorship” and “end of democracy” phrases being thrown around in the comments sections. Mind you, “majority vote” in any other system is considered “democratic” and most definitely “not dictatorship.” There’s also the predictable hand wringing in the MSM about how this will “hurt” Washington.
In the coming weeks, the acrimony could cause meaningful action in the Senate to grind to a halt.
More ominously, future majorities – Democratic or Republican – could use the new rules to run roughshod over the minority party not just for nominations, but most legislative matters.
Which “concern” rather blithely ignores that meaningful action in the Senate – and the House – has ground to a halt for quite some time. One would think that the “political reporter” who wrote that would realize that, and know who has been responsible for that: The Republicans. Over the past 4 years now, they have done everything in their power to block, delay, or stop any government action, even when it’s simple routine “keep the lights on” matters. “Negotiations” have more often than not turned into hostage situations, where the Republicans attitude is “my way or the country gets it!”
But there’s another reason why this vote ended up being called. It’s not easy, and it’s not a matter of whim to change a long-standing rule, particularly one which has had usefulness to both sides. The reason it was called was that the Republicans continually demonstrated that they couldn’t keep a deal. That is a very important point. In any group like the Senate (or anywhere else, for that matter), there’s an unwritten rule, an ethical principle, which says “your word is good” and “a deal’s a deal.”
The understanding is that you can take any position you want while negotiating, and you can be as outrageous as possible. However, once you have agreed to something, that’s it. You’re expect to do what you have agreed to. That’s the rule Mitch McConnell and other Republicans broke, leading to the nuclear option. Consider just how many times Senator McConnell and other Republicans have said they wouldn’t block something, only to turn around and filibuster it. How many times they’ve agreed to a deal, only to do their level best to scuttle it. Ask for a concession, only to say that it wasn’t enough once they received it. It’s a litany of incidents that have shown beyond any shadow of a doubt that they can only be trusted to go back on their word.
So all the screams from the conservatives over this are simply screams because they have gotten what they deserve. They brought this on themselves, by being demonstrably untrustworthy. Here’s the final thought I have: Senator Reid said he was going to do this if the Republicans kept it up. What do you know, but he kept his word. The Republicans thought he was like they were … lying.