Tag Archives: nuclear option

House members reaching into Senate affairs

It’s downright fun to watch members of one congressional body suggest the way members of the other congressional body should do their job.

Let’s presume that the upper chamber, the Senate, would prefer that the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, mind its own business.


Then again, they’re all on the same team, yes? They’re all interested in doing what’s right and correct for the country, aren’t they?

Maybe so. Maybe not.

U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, thinks the Senate should change its filibuster rules to strip power from Democrats. He wants Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” by not allowing Democrats to filibuster GOP-sponsored bills to death. The issue at hand is the Department of Homeland Security funding measure that’s being kicked to death on the floors of both chambers.

Remember when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid did the same thing when Republicans were in the minority? You’d have thought GOP senators’ heads would explode.

Now the fortunes are reversed. The GOP controls the Senate, along with the House. But among the Republican majority there exists a restive band of malcontents, the TEA party caucus, that wants to shake things up not only in their own body, but in the other one as well.

That’s where Labrador and fellow House TEA party insurgent Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., are seeking this change in Senate rules.

Someone needs to inform both of these young men about the institutional rivalry that exists between these two bodies. Senators represent their entire states and serve for six years. Those House members represent certain congressional districts, which have been gerrymandered — more than likely — to elect people of certain ideological stripes; they’re elected to mere two-year terms.

The Senate considers itself a more deliberative body; the House by nature is more raucous. Senators likely won’t admit to it, but they look down their noses at their House colleagues.

Thus, it is at some peril that Reps. Labrador and Huelskamp seek to tell the folks at the other end of the Capitol Building how to conduct their business.

Tread carefully, fellas.


‘Court-packing scheme’ is specious argument

The National Review Online is supposed to be a respected publication.

The editorial attached to this post, however, suggests that the folks who run the publication fail to understand a key component of the U.S. Constitution. It’s the part that gives the president of the United States the authority to make critical executive and judicial branch appointments.


The NRO is upset with Senate Democrats’ decision to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” as it relates to the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took the highly risky step as a way to allow President Obama to have his appointments cleared from a Senate that had obstructed them through the use of the filibuster. It once took 60 votes out of 100 to break a filibuster. It now takes just 51 votes. The rule change involves all appointments except those involving the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Senate has nuked itself.

The NRO, though, says that the filibuster is secondary to what it says is the real reason for the action. “The filibuster is a minor issue; the major issue is that President Obama is engaged in a court-packing scheme to protect his dubious agenda, and Harry Reid’s Senate is conspiring with him to do so,” the NRO writes.

A number of judicial appointments have been blocked by Senate Republicans that have nothing to do with the qualifications of the men and women selected. Obama seeks to fill them because, well, he is the president and the Constitution gives the person in that office the authority to act. Yes, the Constitution also gives the Senate the right to “advise and consent” to the nominations. That role, though, should be on the basis of whether someone is qualified for the job.

I’ve long believed strongly in presidential prerogative. I’ve also believed that presidents who win elections have earned the right to pick whomever they wish to key positions. This might surprise some readers of this blog, but I supported the nomination to the Supreme Court in 1991 of one Clarence Thomas, despite the uproar that arose from his selection when a woman accused him of sexual harassment.

The complaint was never proved. Thomas was qualified to serve on the highest court. Was he the kind of judge I would have picked? No. That job, though, fell to the man who was elected president in 1988, George H.W. Bush. Therefore, the president had earned the right to seat someone of his choosing on the court.

Barack Obama has precisely the same right as any of the men who’ve served before him. The Senate shouldn’t serve as a place where these nominations are stopped because of some trumped-up scheme manufactured by his political opponents.

Court-packing? Give me a break. President Obama’s job involves making appointments. Let him do that job and let the people he selects be examined on the basis of their qualifications.

Senate needs ‘anti-bullying ordinance’?

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is continuing to make the high-minded case that Senate Democrats have become “bullies” and that their changing the filibuster rules to take the teeth out of Senate Republicans’ ability to have their voices heard.


If that’s the case, then perhaps Sen. Paul can declare as well that if Republicans take over the Senate next year that they’ll give back to the newly minted Democratic minority the same weapons the GOP has been denied.

Democrats this week changed the rules to make it easier to end filibusters that have blocked several judicial and other appointments made by President Obama. The rule used to require a 60-vote majority to end a filibuster; now it only takes a simple majority of 51 votes. The new rule, by the way, will still require a 60-vote majority to end filibusters of Supreme Court appointments.

Why deploy the so-called Senate “nuclear option”? Democratic Leader Harry Reid said he’d grown tired of Republicans’ efforts to stymie the president’s ability to fill key executive and judicial spots.

Republicans have complained that Democrats simply have changed the rules to suit their own political agenda. They have cited the Founding Fathers’ intent to create a “cooling environment” in the Senate that would temper a more “populist” House of Representatives. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says the Senate now looks just like the House, that it will be driven more by partisan anger than by reasonable discourse.


If that is as Republicans say it is, and if the GOP wins control of the Senate next year, then surely they’ll restore civility, collegiality and fairness to the body, yes? They’ll no doubt want to level the playing field for Democrats to show that they, Senate Republicans, are more fair-minded than their “friends” on the other side of the aisle.

That’ll happen, right?

Do not bet a nickel on it. Revenge will be the order of the day.

Fallout expected from Senate ‘nuclear’ blast

U.S. Senate Democrats went “nuclear” today.

No one was hurt, at least not physically. There might be some political injury as a result. To whom, though, remains an open question.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid carried through with his threat to employ the “nuclear option” regarding filibusters. Before today’s action, ending a filibuster required 60 votes, out of 100 senators. Today, the rules changed. All it takes after today is a simple majority of 51 votes.

The aim is to push through some appointees whose confirmation had been held up by stubborn Republican senators. The appointees in question were picked by President Obama to sit on the D.C. Court of Appeals, the second-most critical federal bench, after the U.S. Supreme Court. Three highly qualified jurists’ appointments were held up by GOP filibusters.

It’s a pattern that the Republican minority has followed since Barack Obama took office in January 2009. The president today endorsed the Senate Democrats’ action — no surprise there — by declaring “enough is enough.” He noted that four of President George W. Bush’s five appointees to that court were approved by the Senate, while his appointees have been blocked.

Republicans objected — again, no surprise — by using high-minded language about the “tyranny of the majority,” declaring that Democrats were exercising “raw power” in seeking to deny the Senate minority a voice.

Two points need to be made.

First is that the Senate needs to function in its “advise and consent” role. Blocking judicial appointments, or any other presidential pick just because they can is not in keeping with the constitutional provision. Presidents, by virtue of their election to the nation’s highest office, deserve the right to select qualified individuals to serve. That’s a perk that goes with winning an election. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said today that GOP objections to the D.C. court selections had nothing to do with the nominees’ qualifications. To “advise and consent” is supposed to allow senators to determine whether someone is fit for the office to which they’ve been appointed.

The second point is to question whether Senate Republicans are willing to stand by their noble objections should they gain the majority after next year’s election, which is no sure thing. If they believe in the right of the minority party to have a voice in determining the flow of business, would Senate Republicans — if they occupy most of the Senate’s 100 seats in January 2015 — be willing to return to the 60-vote filibuster-busting rule? Would they grant the new Democratic minority the same opportunity to block appointments that the GOP has had since Barack Obama took office?

The Senate has to work for the people. As for the second point, I am not holding my breath on Senate Republicans sticking to their principled objections.

Senate set to change vote rules?

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is threating the “nuclear option” as it regards the Senate’s voting rules.

Go for it, Mr. Leader.


Republican senators are blocking three judicial nominees to the federal court system. President Obama nominated highly qualified jurists to the D.C. Court of Appeals. The GOP has filibustered the nominees, however, requiring a 60-vote majority to break the filibuster and moving the nominations forward. They offer a silly rationale for the filibuster, saying that the D.C. court has too many seats and that it can function with just eight judges. The 11-member court has three vacancies at the moment.

Reid has had his fill of this kind of tactic. He is threatening once again to invoke a rule that would enable the Democrats who control the Senate to change the rules to require a simple majority — 51 votes — to unclog the nomination process.

Why not do it?

Republicans contend the measure could backfire on Democrats if the GOP takes control of the Senate after next year’s election. That would mean Republicans could stop any Democratic effort at filibustering legislation proposed by a theoretical GOP majority.

Reid insists that the Founding Fathers did not intend for the Senate to be hamstrung by procedural maneuvering, which is the result of the 60-vote rule.

The nation operates on a simple majority rule, yes? We elect our public officials who manage to gain a majority of 50 percent plus a single vote. Heck, we even elect presidents who don’t even get a majority of the votes cast, but manage to win a majority of votes awarded by the Electoral College (see George W. Bush, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and John Quincy Adams).

The 60-vote rule can be abused, as has been the case with this constant blocking of judicial appointments by the president of the United States.

Go nuclear, Sen. Reid.