Remember the old comic book ad in which a bully kicks sand in the face of a skinny guy, and the skinny kid takes a Charles Atlas course, muscles up, and comes back to flatten his tormenter?
I think Harry Reid took that course!
Yesterday, Reid invoked the “nuclear option,” changing the Senate’s rules in order to permit most Presidential nominees to be approved by a simple majority.
If you are old enough, you may remember when such majority rule was the rule. The filibuster–a procedural mechanism devised by the Senate itself and found nowhere in the Constitution–was until recently employed only rarely, and usually by a Senator who actually filibustered, a Senator who talked until he could no longer hold out. During the George W. Bush administration, Democrats used it more frequently, but it was only with the election of Barack Obama that things got seriously out of hand.
As media reports have confirmed, early in the Obama Administration, Congressional Republicans decided to block any and all measures coming from the White House. The merits of the proposals, the bona fides of nominees, the desires of the electorate–none of those things would matter. And they would no longer bother to actually filibuster–they’d just say “we’re filibustering, so you need sixty votes” to pass this bill or confirm this nominee.
There’s a Yiddish word for that: chutzpah.
The GOP’s goal was simple: deny this President any victory, no matter how small, no matter how good for the country, no matter if the proposal had originally been their own.
Case in point: Lawyers and judges have pleaded with lawmakers to fill the mounting and unprecedented vacancies that have slowed justice to a crawl and brought business to a halt in many of the nation’s federal courts. Legal organizations and the ABA have sounded the alarm. No matter. Senate Republicans have kept focused on their primary mission: say No to this President.
They finally pushed the Democrats too far.
Reid’s reluctance to “go nuclear” has been clear for some time. But it finally became obvious even to him that the alternative was another three years of stalemate, another three years of national drift, of getting virtually nothing done.
The Constitution requires a simple majority vote to pass bills and confirm most nominees. Except in a few specific instances, it does not require a super-majority. And yet, for the past five years, the GOP’s constant abuse of the filibuster has effectively required a super-majority for even the most mundane and previously uncontroversial actions.
The Party of No has used the filibuster to throw sand in the gears of the Senate–as a way to refuse to do the people’s business so long as Obama occupies the White House. Senate Republican leadership made a calculation: they would stand united to ensure the failure of the hated (black/Kenyan/Muslim) Obama, and the Democrats wouldn’t have the balls to go nuclear.
It was a reasonable bet, but it turned out to be wrong.
The skinny weakling grew a pair.