For five years, Senate Republicans have refused to allow confirmation votes on dozens of perfectly qualified candidates nominated by President Obama for government positions. They tried to nullify entire federal agencies by denying them leaders. They abused Senate rules past the point of tolerance or responsibility. And so they were left enraged and threatening revenge on Thursday when a majority did the only logical thing and stripped away their power to block the president’s nominees.That is the opening paragraph of this lead editorial in today's New York Times, which fully and forcefully supports the action taken yesterday by Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats to limit the abuse of the rules by Senate Republicans.
This vote was long overdue. “I have waited 18 years for this moment,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa.Noting that the Republicans have persistently abused the rules during Obama's presidency, the editorial calls the recent blocking of the three nominees to the DC Circuit "the last straw."
The editorial notes
Republicans warned that the rule change could haunt the Democrats if they lost the White House and the Senate. But the Constitution gives presidents the right to nominate top officials in their administration and name judges, and it says nothing about the ability of a Senate minority to stop them. (The practice barely existed before the 1970s.) From now on, voters will have to understand that presidents are likely to get their way on nominations if their party controls the Senate.Note that last sentence again: From now on, voters will have to understand that presidents are likely to get their way on nominations if their party controls the Senate. One can legitimately make this a campaign issue, one perhaps more easily understood than has been the long-term implication for the judicial branch of the choices a President makes.
The Times goes on to note the continuation of the 60 vote threshold for ending legislative filibusters, a continuation they support. The paper also supports the further idea of requiring talking filibusters, reversing a practice that began when Majority Leader Mike Mansfield allowed the intent of a filibuster to effectively block the Senate at the same time the threshold for cloture was lowered from 67 to 60 (Chris Hayes covered this last night). The editorial notes that such a change
could finally spell an end to logjams that have prevented important legislation from reaching votes.After all, requiring Senators to take the floor and speak puts them on public record in a way that will allow the American people to decide whether the obstruction they offer is something to be taken into account when next voting for those imposing the filibuster - I suspect few will want to subject their party to the potential wrath of the American electorate, which except for Tea Party types wants government to work.
The editorial concludes that making the change by a simple majority vote had ample precedent, although it cautions that doing so by simply majority should be done "judiciously." It considered the vote yesterday an appropriate application of the power because
it was necessary to turn the Senate back into a functioning legislative body.What the Democrats should now, in my opinion, due, is to begin to put forward all nominations still pending that have been blocked by Republican obstructionism. Dare the Republicans to try other dilatory tactics on these, or to try to take revenge by blocking all legislation. I suspect should they take such a path, the Times will not be the only major media outlet taking them to taks editorially.