This week marks a dramatic alteration of the governmental process by which presidents win approval for their nominees for administrative and Appeals Court posts. The filibusters that during this administration have routinely prevented appointments are no longer going to be allowed. Because the Democratic majority invoked what has been perhaps unfortunately called the Nuclear Option, now it's a simple majority rule; vote the appointee in or out.
The Senate has been approving or disapproving such appointments throughout its history with only minor problems occurring. But during the current administration, filibusters of presidential appointments have reached all-time highs. Since 1789, 224 years ago when the Senate was formed, there have been 128 filibusters of nominees by the minority party, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's statement on the floor. The degree of unprecedented obstruction by the current crop of minority GOP Senators can be clearly seen in the fact that, of those 128 filibusters in the history of the Senate, fully half of them have been conducted during the Obama administration's brief five-year tenure.
This has been a preposterous mangling of the intended purpose of the filibuster, conducted almost exclusively as nothing more than sour grapes by the party that lost the last election …or two.
The loss of a presidential election and your nose being out of joint over the result, has never been the intended rationale for the filibuster. It served a serious and reasonable purpose, buying time for votes to be swayed on important decisions. But that luxury is no more. The filibuster can no longer be employed to delay a vote, and the majority required will no longer be 60 votes in a 100-seat chamber. Now a simple majority rules, and there will be no delaying the vote, no matter how far out of joint your nose happens to be at the time.
There is no doubt that at some point the Democrats will wind up tasting the same bitter truth if and when they become the minority party in the Senate. But the simple truth is that the old rules had to change. This recent Republican obstructionism had thoroughly defeated the functioning of the Senate. Almost nothing was getting accomplished. The GOP felt compelled to filibuster almost every bill and appointment. If they could have gotten away with it, they would have filibustered requests to go to the restroom. Nuke those 'busters!
The only path toward a return to functionality for the Senate, was to reform these rules, eliminating the ongoing, unnecessary, partisan-motivated sour grapes of having been voted into a minority. If the filibusters were aimed specifically at the nominees, themselves, expressing concerns about their qualifications, this change in the rules would never have occurred. It would not have been needed. But when you challenge EVERY appointee regardless of qualifications, regardless of character, regardless of potential to provide exceptional service, and instead focus on only the one fact that a president you don't like made the request, you have effectively given up your right to that filibuster. The Dems didn't effect this change after 200 years of successful business being conducted in the Senate. The Republicans are responsible for this change, and for all that will come from it in the years ahead.
Congress does still have a few responsibilities. Now, maybe this completely dysfunctional version of Congress can begin meeting some of them for a change.