Nuclear? It’s About Time!

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.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Nuclear? It’s About Time!

  1. Vic78

    I’m glad some of his party grew brains. It only took seven years. All I can see is the time lost. We really can’t afford to be playing. And fuck the MSM. They make me wish this guy existed: http://youtu.be/SdkKB0-gQq8.

    Now about getting that majority in the House next year…

  2. mdblanche

    To be fair, this may have come as a surprise to some people because while Senator Reid and many Democrats have suggested using the nuclear option for years, the last votes needed for it were only won over this week. Many people on both sides grew complacent about this day ever coming.

    And once it did, it came quickly. Reid only gave a few hours’ notice of his intentions. No time to try to entice waverers with another untrustworthy last minute deal, no time to run crying to sympathetic reporters to try to exert media pressure on the panicky. I always figured that if and when this happened it would be quick, and that part did not surprise me at all.

    • Exactly. One of the other blogs points out that it always comes down to “votes in hand.” That is, there have always been a number of Democratic senators who were either leaning against removing the rule or against it. It’s only been since the shutdown that the leaners decided “enough is enough,” giving him the 52 “votes in hand” for him to spring this.

    • Excellent point about the need for it to happen quickly: “No time to try to entice waverers with another untrustworthy last minute deal”. The untrustworthiness of the deals was probably the deal breaker for the coalition of the foolhardy, eventually just Carl Levin and two guys who are scared to vote with Democrats.

  3. Norbrook, the part about this latest obstructionism that finally pulled back the curtain on the real goal of the minority Republicans was that they were NOT doing it to stop an unqualified person getting a lifetime appointment: they were doing it to change laws without going through the pesky process of winning elections and having enough votes to pass a bill and having a president to sign it into law. The law states that the DC circuit should have 11 judges. You should not be allowed to nullify that law by refusing to fill three vacancies.

    I am glad that Harry Reid pushed the red button. I am not in the camp that thinks this will come back to bite Democrats because I don’t see how Republicans running on the teaparty platform can win back the Senate and the White House. Should we have a Republican president some day, it will not be someone who embraces an agenda that 75% of Americans hate. And I don’t see the teaparty influence waning for at least two more election cycles. I will take my chances that by 2018, should the Republican party not just rebrand itself but remake itself to appeal to a majority of Americans, it will be a party that wants to share in governance, not obstruct.

  4. Bravo. Perhaps we see some light at the end of this very dark tunnel. Govern – don’t obstruct.

  5. Dancer

    The solution to the worry that Repugs will use this (and go further) should they regain the Senate (or less likely the oval) is to put every effort into finding good DEMS and supporting then voting for them in 2014. Sounds easier than it might be. If only we could have a decent press…AHHHHHH What will it finally take for more people to wake up to the hypocrisy and obfuscation of the REPUGS? Didn’t McConnell from the beginning that they would BLOCK everything the president tried to do??????

    • McConnell said from the beginning that they were going to block everything in an attempt to make President Obama a one term president. That failed, and when they also failed to retake the Senate, his strategy was also a failure. At the beginning of this year, there was a lot of rumble in the Senate about changing the cloture rules. The reason Reid “caved” was that McConnell promised that they would no longer block presidential nominations, and that they would allow “up or down votes” on judicial nominations. It’s also important to remember that Reid may not have had the votes at that time to get that change in the rules.

      What the Republicans have done since is continuously block nominations from votes. In other words, McConnell lied, or being generous, he failed to get “buy in” on that from his caucus. That continuous blockade, even after promising it wouldn’t happen, is what pushed the “fence-sitters” off the fence and gave Reid the votes to push the change through.