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Senate Goes (Partly) Nuclear, Limits Filibusters For Some Nominees

Nuclear Explosion

As has been threatened several times over the past several years, the U.S. Senate employed the simple majority of Democratic control to enact a change in Senate rules that will limit the ability of Senate minorities to block certain nominees from being considered on an up-or-down vote:

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted on Thursday to eliminate the use of the filibuster against most presidential nominees, a move that will break the Republican blockade of President Obama’s picks to cabinet posts and the federal judiciary. The change is the most fundamental shift in the way the Senate functions in more than a generation.

The vote was one that members of both parties had threatened for the better part of a decade, but had always stopped short of carrying out. This time, with little left of the bipartisan spirit that helped seal compromises on filibuster rule changes in the past, there was no last-minute deal to be struck.

The vote was 52 to 48.

Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, set the change in motion on Thursday with a series of procedural steps.

“The need for change is so, so very obvious. It is clearly visible,” Mr. Reid said as the Senate convened Thursday morning. “It is time to get the Senate working.”

After the vote on the filibuster rules, Mr. Reid said he would not gloat. “This is not a time for celebration,” he said.

On that, but little else, Republicans agreed. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said the changes marked a “devastating” breach of Senate procedure.

“Now there are no rules in the United States Senate,” he said.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, denounced Democrats for trying to “break the rules to change the rules” as a way to distract the public from the president’s political problems over his health care law.

“You think this is in the best interest of the United States Senate and the American people?” Mr. McConnell asked, sounding incredulous. “I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you’ll regret this. And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”

The gravity of the situation was reflected in a highly unusual scene on the Senate floor: Nearly all 100 senators were in their seats, rapt as their two leaders debated.

Tensions between the two parties have reached a boiling point in the last few weeks as Republicans repeatedly filibustered Mr. Obama’s picks to the country’s most important appeals court, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Senate has voted on three nominees to the court in the last month. Republicans have blocked them all, saying they would allow the president no more appointments to that court.

Democrats, who filibustered their own share of Republican judicial nominees before they took control of the Senate, have said that what the minority party has done is to effectively rewrite the law by requiring a 60-vote supermajority threshold for high-level presidential appointments. Once rare, filibusters of high-level nominees are now routine.

With the appeals court left with a bench of just eight full-time judges — there are 11 full-time seats — Democrats argue that Republicans are denying Mr. Obama his constitutional powers to appoint judges and reshaping the nature of the federal judiciary.

Senate Majority Leader Reid didn’t waste time using the new rule to push forward nominations that Republicans had previously been able to block under the 60-vote rule that had been in effect today, including, so far, the nomination of one of the three nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that had been blocked in the past month which served as the impetus for this move. It’s also expected we’ll see it used to push forward other Executive Branch nominations such as the nomination of Congressman Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It’s important to note, though, what this rule change doesn’t impact. For one thing, it does not apply to nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it doesn’t apply to legislation of any kind. Additionally, it would appear that the rule change would not impact the ability of a Senator or Senators to place a hold on individual nominees, or that it would change the number of votes necessary on the floor of the Senate to release that hold. It seems obvious that Reid chose to omit these matters from the Rules change in order to ensure that he could obtain the 51 votes necessary to pass his motion, especially since as it was he lost three Senators on the vote (Michigan’s Carl Levin, Arkansas’s Mark Pryor, and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin)

How you feel about today’s developments largely depends on where you sit politically, of course. The immediate reaction from Senate Republicans, as partly noted in the quoted text above, has been essentially a warning to Senate Democrats that they have set a precedent that the GOP would fully intend to take advantage of when they day comes that they regain control of the Senate and the White House (or even just the Senate). Indeed, even now there are plenty of things that Republicans could do to slow down the business of the Senate such as making interlocutory motions and refusing to agree to unanimous consent requests that require the majority to proceed under the slower moving “regular order.” Outside of the Senate, the reaction is about what you’d expect to. Bloggers and pundits on the left who have long been arguing in favor of filibuster reform, such as Ed Kilgore, Kevin Drum,  Ezra Klein, and Greg Sargent are obviously quite pleased with even this limited to change to a rule that they’ve been opposed to for some time now, at least since Barack Obama has been President that is. On the right, much of the reaction right now seems to be limited to pointing out the rather obvious hypocrisy on this issue that we’re seeing from Democratic Senators who were on the exact opposite side of this issue when George W. Bush was President, something which both Jennifer Rubin and Allahpundit point out.

As for my own point of view, I’ve said here many times before that I thought that filibuster reform of some kind was both necessary and proper. This seemed to be especially true when it comes to Presidential appointments to the Executive Branch since, as a general rule, I believe that President’s should be permitted to have as their principal advisers and assistance the people that they select unless there is something wrong with the nominee on a professional or personal level. Things are a little more complicated, though, when it comes to judicial appointments. Given that appointments to the Federal Judiciary are lifetime appointments, the vote that each nominee receives in the Senate is, in the end, the one and only opportunity that an elected branch of government will have for oversight over them. For that reason, I can see an argument for allowing a Senate minority to apply more scrutiny to these nominees than to, say, a nominee to a Cabinet Department or Federal Agency, most of whom will be subject to significant Congressional oversight and not be in office longer than the term of the current President in any case. It’s also worth noting that, notwithstanding the block placed against the three nominees to the D.C. Circuit, most of the judicial nominees that President Obama has sent to the Senate have been confirmed rather easily, and the most of the nominees at the Federal District Court level have been confirmed unanimously or nearly unanimously. Personally, I would have preferred to see the 60 vote rule stay in place for Circuit Court nominees as it has for the Supreme Court, but obviously Senator Reid realized he had the votes to extend it that far. .

As I noted above, the biggest question going forward is what today’s developments do to that ephemeral Senate goal of “comity,” which allows the body to move forward at times without having to comply with all of its more complicated rules. In addition to the holds and lack of unanimous consent that I noted above, Senate Republicans could also force Reid to strictly comply with Senate rules that are normally waived, such as those dealing with the actual reading of the text of bills, something which would considerably slow the ordinary business of the Senate down. Now, some will argue that the GOP couldn’t possibly make things move slower in the Senate than they already do, but that may not necessarily be the case, and it seems unlikely that Reid would have sufficient support in his caucus for the kind of wholesale rewriting of the rules that would be required to deal with those efforts. So, with the Senate Democrats having made their choice and voted in without consultation with the minority a rules change that could come around to bite them in the future when they are in the minority, we’ll have to just sit back and see what the consequences will be. It could all end up being very entertaining, if you’re into legislative battles that is.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    The Republicans would have killed it as soon as they gained a majority. The idea that buffoons like Ted Cruz would respect the “rules” is absurd. So it was either go nuclear now and get some work done, or wait for the Republicans to go nuclear. Either way it was coming.

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  2. C. Clavin says:

    It’s a tragedy that Republicans forced this to happen.
    Someday a real Conservative will provide some leadership for the GOP…and get them back on track…working in the best interest of the Nation.
    I hope sooner than later.

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  3. steve s says:

    I had no idea when I went to bed last night this would happen. Wow. Huge. Some basic functionality restored to government. Republican unpatriotic assholery thwarted somewhat. Wow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. michael reynolds says:

    While we’re at it, the underlying idea of the Senate has become increasingly ridiculous. I find it intolerable that as a Californian I share my two Senators with 38 million people, while a Wyoming also has two senators with a population smaller than the District of Columbia which of course has zero Senate representation.

    It’s just an idiotic system that hands wildly disproportionate power to the handful of people who were too dull or timid to get the hell out of states that are really little more than very large vacant lots.

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  5. CB says:

    Can someone respond to the assertion that Bush nominees were filibustered at a higher rate than Obama? Ive seen it floated alot recently (most recently Ponnuru), but admittedly dont know enough about House and Senate rules or history to judge.

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  6. David M says:

    @CB:

    The default position should be that current Republican assertions are either lies or not useful. Very rarely will that advice steer you wrong, and it’s a great timesaver.

    And if it’s an actual issue, most of the time liberals will acknowledge it.

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  7. stonetools says:

    As I noted above, the biggest question going forward is what today’s developments do to that ephemeral Senate goal of “comity,”

    The Senate Republicans blew up “comity” a long time ago, when they made the filibuster routine for most Presidential appointments. Senator Reid:

    It is a troubling trend that Republicans are willing to block executive branch nominees even when they have no objection to the qualifications of the nominee. Instead, they block qualified executive branch nominees to circumvent the legislative process. They block qualified executive branch nominees to force wholesale changes to laws. They block qualified executive branch nominees to restructure entire executive branch departments. And they block qualified judicial nominees because they don’t want President Obama to appoint any judges to certain courts.

    The need for change is obvious. In the history of the Republic, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations. Half of them have occurred during the Obama Administration – during the last four and a half years
    . These nominees deserve at least an up-or-down vote. But Republican filibusters deny them a fair vote and deny the President his team.

    And….

    In the last three weeks alone, Republicans have blocked up-or-down votes on three highly qualified nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered by many to be the second highest court in the land. Republicans have blocked four of President Obama’s five nominees to the D.C. Circuit, whereas Democrats approved four of President Bush’s six nominees to this important court. Today, 25 percent of the D.C. Circuit Court is vacant. There isn’t a single legitimate objection to the qualifications of any of these nominees. Yet Republicans refused to give them an up-or-down vote – a simple yes-or-no vote. Republicans simply don’t want President Obama to make any appointments at all to this vital court.

    Further, only 23 district court nominees have been filibustered in the entire history of this country. Twenty of them were nominated by President Obama

    Comity died a while ago. And Republican overreach was what killed it. Also dead is the “both sides do it” meme. One side did it a hell of a lot more. You need to give up that meme, bro.

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  8. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:
    I think the theory of the Senate is sound.
    Unfortunately the reality of disproportionate power is that it ends up being used dis-proportionally.
    But let’s be honest…if Republicans hadn’t abdicated their duty to Legislate we wouldn’t be here today. Extreme actions demand extreme reactions.

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  9. James Joyner says:

    I didn’t think it was permissible under Senate rules to change the rules of debate in mid-Congress; I thought it was something that had to be done at either the start of a new Congress or when a change in party balance occurred. Regardless, I’m been in favor of this particular version of filibuster reform for going on a decade. Indeed, I think requiring a supermajority vote for confirmation violated the spirit of the Constitution, if not the letter.

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  10. al-Ameda says:

    So, with the Senate Democrats having made their choice and voted in without consultation with the minority a rules change that could come around to bite them in the future when they are in the minority, we’ll have to just sit back and see what the consequences will be.

    The fact is, with no rules change Democrats were getting standard Republican treatment – 24/7 obstruction.

    As for the McConnell claim that essentially Democrats want to pack the judiciary with justices who are favorable to a liberal agenda, therefore Democratic Administration nominees need to be blocked without floor votes? Well, that’s exactly how you get from the old filibuster rules to the new filibuster rules.

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  11. Rob in CT says:

    The Dems were left with no choice (other than capitulation). The use of filibusters has been ratcheting up for a couple of decades now, and had finally reached the point of utter absurdity. This was a thing whose time had come (actually, its time came years ago. Actually, not even that: what JJ said – its time came long ago). Anyway, better late than never. The GOP will now whine, and has threatened that once they’re in power they’ll nominate “more Scalias and Thomases.” Setting aside the fact that both of those judges were confirmed under the old rules (and Bork was denied w/o the use of a filibuster), FINE. Elections have consequences and all that.

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  12. Paul L. says:

    Harry Reid opens Pandora’s box

    SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): “…the so-called nuclear option… attempt to rewrite Senate rules so we would be another House of Representatives; that we would throw away the Constitution of the United States so the Federal courts could be packed.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.8911, 9/5/06)

    REID: “We stand united against an outrageous abuse of power that would pack the courts with out-of-the-mainstream judges.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.5198, 5/16/05)

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  13. Rafer Janders says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I think the theory of the Senate was sound in the 18th century, when most of the states had fairly similar (or at least not wildly disproportionate) populations. But the reality of the Senate in the modern day, when we have some states, such as California, that have 38 million people and other states, such as Wyoming, that have about half a million, is not.

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  14. David M says:

    @Paul L.:

    That is similar to the idea that the Dems shouldn’t do this because the GOP will put more justices like Alito, Scalia and Thomas on the supreme court.

    For obvious reasons, that threat is meaningless.

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  15. Ron Beasley says:

    @Rafer Janders: I think that’s correct. You’ve got a lot of rural red states with small populations and fewer blue states with large populations so the Senate is already weighted in favor of the minority. The filibuster only strengthens that.

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  16. Dave W. says:

    @Paul L.: Almost everyone is a hypocrite on process. It would not be that hard to gather quotes from the Republicans who were opposed to this move today taking the opposite stand in 2005. So, what is the point of your post?

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  17. Rob in CT says:

    @Paul L.:

    Funny, considering the quotes that are readily available from back then from McConnell (saying the opposite). They both flip-flopped. Reid’s explanation is that the level of obstruction increased (and he’s correct), so he changed his mind. That his party is the majority now obviously is part of it too. Duh.

    The GOP would’ve killed the filibuster in a New York minute if/when they re-took the Senate (under a GOP Pres, anyway) and the Dems were filibustering left and right. They threatened it in ’05, when dealing with less obstruction than the Dems are now. This has been building for a while. Sooner or later, one party was going to finally say screw it, we’re done with this.

    Also, too: McConnell repeatedly reneging on deals with Reid didn’t help. Lucy, Charlie Brown, football. Enough already.

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  18. Gavrilo says:

    Can’t we go back to the good old days when judicial nominees were only filibustered for legitimate reasons, like being Hispanic?

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  19. David M says:

    Did the Democrats ever filibuster to stop anyone from being appointed to a position? Even in the cases where the GOP can say “you did it too”, was there ever a time where the Democrats announced there were no acceptable candidates?

    Just trying to make the distinction between filibustering a nominee and filibustering all nominations for a position.

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  20. CB says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I loved the comment that Charlie Brown finally said “f*ck it” and kicked Lucy in the teeth. Great mental image.

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  21. Rafer Janders says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    You’ve got a lot of rural red states with small populations and fewer blue states with large populations so the Senate is already weighted in favor of the minority. The filibuster only strengthens that.

    Doing a very quick and rough back of the envelope count, the combined population of the 20 smallest states appears to be around 31.5 million. So those 31.5 million people collectively have 40 Senators to represent them and could, with the old filibuster rules, block any legislation or nominees. To put it another way, 31.5 million people is 10% of the US population but 40% of the voting power in the Senate.

    By contrast the largest state, California, has 38 million people, and those 38 million get only two Senators to represent them.

    As you note, even without the filibuster, the Senate is already wildly tilted in favor of the minority.

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  22. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Doing a very quick and rough back of the envelope count, the combined population of the 20 smallest states appears to be around 3.15 million.

    This sentence should obviously reference 31.5 million, not 3.15 million. Excuse the typo.

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  23. C. Clavin says:

    @Paul L.:
    Those two comments are not in conflict…when you consider the actions of Senate Republicans.
    Republicans forced Reid to do what he didn’t want to. Indeed he had been threatening it for a long time without actually doing it. Ultimately he had no choice, as several commenters here have noted.

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  24. Kari Q says:

    @CB:

    Here‘s a report from the Wall Street Journal:

    Since 1949, cloture votes were invoked for only 20 executive branch nominees, according to the liberal People for the American Way. But 16 of Mr. Obama’s executive branch nominees have been subject to cloture votes.

    A look at the confirmation rates for district court nominees picked by the past four presidents shows a mixed bag: For Mr. Obama, the Senate approved 143 of his 173 nominees; for President George W. Bush, 170 of 179 nominees

    President George W. Bush saw 35 of his 52 nominees confirmed, and, so far, 30 of Mr. Obama’s 42 nominees have been confirmed.

    Mr. Obama is also the only one of the five most recent presidents whose average and median waiting time for circuit and district court nominees from confirmation to nomination was more than six months.

    It appears that the GOP have indeed reach unprecedented levels of obstruction under Obama.

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  25. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The Republicans would have killed it as soon as they gained a majority.

    I’ve seen similar comments to this. It’s sort of the funhouse mirror version of “both sides do it”: neither side has ever done it before, but the other side willwould have done it in the future (because that’s the kind of jerks they are) so it’s ok if our side does it. Willwould is a verb tense that doesn’t exist, kind of a predictive dismissive future tense.

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  26. Paul L. says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Those two comments are not in conflict…when you consider the actions of Senate Republicans.

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
    Also not a lie

    we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

    REID: This war is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday.

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  27. David M says:

    @Pinky:

    The Republicans would have killed it as soon as they gained a majority

    Seems to me this should be the default reasonable assumption solely based on the recent history of radical actions by the GOP.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Kari Q says:

    Oh, and if you’re just interested in judicial nominees, this site has interesting information: Bush had 91% of his federal judicial nominees approved. Obama, so far, has had 76% approved. This in spite of the fact that there are far more vacancies under Obama than there were under Bush.

    It’s also interesting that when they finally come up for a vote, they almost always get passed by unanimous consent, voice vote, or with no votes opposing. So candidates are being delayed that no one really seems to object to.

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  29. superdestroyer says:

    The Democrats are signalling to the rest of the country that they know that the Republicans will never hold the White House again. The Democrats have finally decided to act on the fact that the Republican and their party are irrelevant to politics or governance in the U.S.

    I wonder if the MSM will take their cue from Sen. Reid and begin to ignore the Republicans and their candidate. The media could save a ton of money by not bothering to cover the Repubilcan primaries in 2016. Maybe pundits should begin to speculate when the Republicans will have less than 40 Senators and the rule change becomes moot.

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  30. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You are assuming that the Republicans will ever have a majority in the Senate again. The Democrats are letting the world know that the U.S. is headed to being a one party state (much like California) and that the Republicans are irrelevant.

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  31. Woody says:

    The immediate reaction from Senate Republicans, as partly noted in the quoted text above, has been essentially a warning to Senate Democrats that they have set a precedent that the GOP would fully intend to take advantage of when they day comes that they regain control of the Senate and the White House (or even just the Senate).

    Hah.

    One of the great discoveries of the post-Ford Republican Party is that they have shown a fearlessness to upend tradition to accomplish a policy goal. Their party organs (Fox, WSJ et al) provide cover and greatly influence their “media”* peers. To their credit, it’s been wildly successful. Politics ain’t beanbag, after all.

    However, today’s GOP believes this fearlessness to be a policy goal, and so uses this tactic as a matter of course. With no policy to speak of, it’s become all tactic, all the time. This is why any editorializing about tradition or comity is so preposterous.

    *The Mike Allen pay-for-play isn’t unique, kids . . .

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  32. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds: “I find it intolerable that as a Californian”

    If there are residents of one state that should NEVER talk about government reform, structure or functioning, it would be California.

    Mike

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  33. stonetools says:

    @MBunge:

    Er, that’s outdated criticism. California is roaring back right now.
    The revival began, oddly enough, when California voted in enough Democrats that the Republicans couldn’t block any legislative action.

    California Budget surpluses

    Its almost like government works, when Republicans don’t have the power to screw things up.

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  34. de stijl says:

    @Woody:

    However, today’s GOP believes this fearlessness to be a policy goal, and so uses this tactic as a matter of course. With no policy to speak of, it’s become all tactic, all the time. This is why any editorializing about tradition or comity is so preposterous.

    Spot on.

    Republican belligerency towards opponents is the de facto tactic – and image – of the party. Candidates who are not nasty enough get labelled RINOs. Compromise is a dirty word, if not an outright evil act, and compromisers are primaried from the right.

    A Manichean worldview coupled with an unhealthy diet of media voices who only agree with you creates a nasty little feedback loop that just ramps up the animus. If your opponent is evil and wishes to destroy America then anything you can do to thwart and punish them is not just fair game, but is an unalloyed good. Any who deviate are apostates and heretics.

    I would not be surprised to see someone like Cruz be labelled a “moderate” in a few years if they continue on this trajectory. There will be a new firebrand who will be even more firebrandier.

    I do disagree with you on the topic of a lack of GOP policy proposals. The list is pretty easy to lay out: suppress likely Democratic voters, reduce taxes for the rich, cut entitlements for the poor, gut or kill any corporate regulations, and eliminate reproductive choice. Did I miss any?

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  35. Latino_in_Boston says:

    I’m against filibusters on principle. It was a historical accident that it occurred in any case. And most likely the founding fathers would not believe that it was used in the way it was in the past few years.

    Republicans are now threatening to get rid of all filibusters, and I could not be more thrilled. The Senate is already an undemocratic institution by definition. There is no sound reason to make it be a supermajority institution on top of it.

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  36. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    The GOP doesn’t give a rat’s ass about rules, precedents, comity, co-operation or governing. It’s baloney to call this “both sides do it.” The GOP has clearly demonstrated their lack of common decency and their indifference to actually governing. They are a rogue party.

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  37. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    The Democrats are letting the world know that the U.S. is headed to being a one party state (much like California) and that the Republicans are irrelevant.

    Jeez, I certainly hope so.

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  38. superdestroyer says:

    @al-Ameda:

    It is nice to know that progressives really do not like Democracy but are much more powerful with a government based upon clouts and power brokers who will decide who gets the backing of the establishment and will hold the office until they either retire or are given a higher office.

    I guess Chicago is the model for the future of the U.S.

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  39. David M says:

    I think it’s clear from the GOP complaints that the old rules were to the advantage of the GOP. With no interest in a functional government, they were causing the very dysfunction they were campaigning against. They know the Democrats aren’t interested in breaking the government just because the GOP is in charge.

    Hopefully this will remedy that imbalance.

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  40. Kari Q says:

    @superdestroyer:

    I fail to see how allowing nominees to be confirmed by a simple majority vote in any way indicates a dislike for democracy.

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  41. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Of course, if you really thought this was important, you’d move to Wyoming.

    Revealed preference :-)

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  42. john personna says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Speaking of revealed preference, there are a lot of Republicans won’t leave either.

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  43. C. Clavin says:

    @superdestroyer:
    Are you saying a 60% majority is necessary for a proper Democracy?
    Or are you saying you don’t understand Democracy?

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  44. C. Clavin says:

    @Paul L.:
    Is Paul L. Really Jenos?

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  45. wr says:

    @superdestroyer: “It is nice to know that progressives really do not like Democracy but are much more powerful with a government based upon clouts and power brokers who will decide who gets the backing of the establishment and will hold the office until they either retire or are given a higher office. ”

    Yes, progressives hate democracy so much they just instituted (gasp!!!!!) majority rule in the Senate. Fascism!!!!!!!!!

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  46. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Aw, you missed me. I’m touched.

    Anyway…

    Back in 2005, we had the same argument. And many of the same people arguing then are now on the opposite side now. And they’ll switch back when the balance of power shifts next time.

    There is no ethical principle involved here. Both sides think that they should have the power, regardless of who is in the minority or the majority. The only real question is how forceful they will be in the argument.

    In 2005, the GOP chose to not go full-bore when they held the majority. In 2013, the Democrats did make that choice. Which means that next time the GOP holds the majority, they can — with perfectly straight faces — simply continue the Democrats’ policy.

    Because this is not a case where pointing out the other side’s hypocrisy means a damned thing. Because this is not about any principle, but power and the exercise thereof.

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  47. john personna says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Sure there is an ethical defense of the change: the sheer count of blocked nominations had become a greater evil. Change, lesser evil.

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  48. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    The filibuster of positions rather than specific nominees was untenable. It could not be permitted.

    This attempted nullification and court packing by the GOP was substantively different than anything done by the Democrats when they were in the minority.

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  49. This is fantastic! Now that the Democrats have established the the filibuster can be changed whenever the majority wants, once the GOP takes back the Senate (now or at some point in the future), they can just change the rules with a majority vote, and then repeal whatever Democratic legislation they want- starting with Obamacare. Thank you for removing the check of 60 votes that was established when our nation was first founded- now the party is really on!

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  50. David M says:

    @A Conservative Teacher:

    You should probably read up on the filibuster before spouting off. The 60 vote rule dates from 1975.

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  51. Kari Q says:

    @A Conservative Teacher:

    They can try – as long as they also have the House and the presidency. That will have to wait a few years, at least. And by then, they will be positioning themselves as the defenders of the ACA, which they will no longer call “Obamacare” just as they no longer pretend that Medicare will be the end of freedom in America.

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  52. John425 says:

    Dear Senator Reid: Remember—what goes around, comes around.

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  53. humanoid.panda says:

    @A Conservative Teacher: @A Conservative Teacher:
    1. The filibuster was not established with our republic, but several decades later. Notice that the constitution says absolutely nothing about it.
    2. Yes, republicans should be free to end the ACA, voucherize medicare, or privatize social security. The party’s ideological core, as its currently constituted, clearly thinks the welfare state needs to be radically reduced, and if the people choose a republican president, house, and senate, they should live with the consequences of this choice. Truth is that in the real world, the GOP will not even fully repeal the ACA, let alone touch of any of the programs it core electorate happens to rely on.

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  54. David M says:

    @John425:

    Dear Senator Reid: Remember—what goes around, comes around.

    How so? The Democrats aren’t interested in this type of wide scale obstruction, so they aren’t losing much. Sure the GOP will get some nominees that the Democrats don’t like, but there’s no question the current situation was giving the GOP an advantage.

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  55. An Interested Party says:

    It’s so rich to watch so many Republicans/conservatives needing the smelling salts and fainting couches….they want to play by Marquess of Queensberry rules now…NOW!? Please…..

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  56. superdestroyer says:

    @Kari Q:

    That almost all progressives want the U.S. to be a one party state and are willing to adopt policies like trillion dollar budget deficits, amnesty, and open borders to get it.

    That Sen. Reid is willing to alienate the Republicans just shows that the Democrats do not believe that the Republicans will ever be in the majority again. If the Democrats can get a few more bills passed such as expanding social security and passing amnesty will lock in the Democrats advantage.

    Instead of writing about the irrelevant 2016 Republican primaires, wonks and pundits who want to show they are capable of thinking about the future should begin to think about how the U.S. will operate as as one party state.

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  57. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I would argue that having one party in charge of everthng and will elections not be relevant to affecting the government, the U.S. will become a one party sate. I believe that a one party state where clouts and power brokers decide who holds office is not really a democracy. I believe that most liberal believe the U.S. will be better off when the voters cannot affect policy or governance and decisions are made by the elites. The liberals are getting what they want.

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  58. superdestroyer says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Your scenario is dependent on conservative politics remaining relevant in the U.S. Do you really think that a conservative party can be relevant in a country where more than 50% of children are born to single mothers, more than 50% of children in school are on free lunch, are less than 50% of adults pay income taxes?

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  59. superdestroyer says:

    @A Conservative Teacher:

    Since the Democrats will maintain a lock on the White House in the future due to demographics, the Republicans will probably never pass a piece of legislation again that will not be vetoed by the sitting Democratic president. The only thing the Republicans will be able to pass and enact in the future is legislation that is beneficial to Democrats and harmful to Republicans (think something like comprehensive immigration reform).

    Welcome to the real one party state.

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  60. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @David M: The filibuster of positions rather than specific nominees was untenable. It could not be permitted.

    This attempted nullification and court packing by the GOP was substantively different than anything done by the Democrats when they were in the minority.

    You say that like it means something. It doesn’t.

    What is “untenable” and what can “not be permitted” are now defined by the party in power. The Democrats don’t get to write the rules for all future Congresses, so whatever their rationales were are irrelevant. The GOP will find its own reasons and apply them. At which point the Democrats will whine and squeal (or, if you like, express their indignation and loudly denounce the tyranny), which will amount to nothing.

    This move changes the rules. Well, that’s not fair; the rules are always subject to change. This move redefines the playing field. And that redefinition is what will stick.

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  61. Rafer Janders says:

    @A Conservative Teacher:

    Thank you for removing the check of 60 votes that was established when our nation was first founded- now the party is really on!

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/area-man-passionate-defender-of-what-he-imagines-c,2849/

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  62. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Back in 2005, we had the same argument. And many of the same people arguing then are now on the opposite side now. And they’ll switch back when the balance of power shifts next time.

    There is no ethical principle involved here.

    Perhaps I should have been clearer about which of your lies I was pointing out this time.

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  63. Rafer Janders says:

    @superdestroyer:

    That almost all progressives want the U.S. to be a one party state and are willing to adopt policies like trillion dollar budget deficits,

    “In 2001, President George W. Bush inherited a surplus, with projections by the Congressional Budget Office for ever-increasing surpluses, assuming continuation of the good economy and President Bill Clinton’s policies. But every year starting in 2002, the budget fell into deficit. In January 2009, just before President Obama took office, the budget office projected a $1.2 trillion deficit for 2009 and deficits in subsequent years, based on continuing Mr. Bush’s policies and the effects of recession.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/opinion/sunday/24sun4.html

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  64. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @David M: Alternately, you could stay true to form and say absolutely nothing of substance for the next five rounds of conversation.

    If that’s your choice, include me out. Actually, either way, include me out.

    There are arguments where one can make arguments on principles, on ideals and ideology, of who’s right and who’s wrong. On this issue, there isn’t. It’s about who has the power, who doesn’t, and what each side is willing to do to either achieve their goals or thwart the other side. Period.

    Someone needs to explain the Prisoner’s Dilemma to every single member of Congress.

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  65. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I get it, you’re unwilling to admit this situation is different than 2005 as that would make the GOP look bad. You’re unwilling to admit the GOP tactics are unprecedented as that would make the GOP look bad. You’re unwilling to admit the GOP brought this on themselves. You’re so desperately in the tank for the GOP that you refuse to discuss most issues in good faith.

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  66. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    It’s sunny and warm in Wyoming, right?

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  67. anjin-san says:

    The nuclear option? Not good. Allowing the teas to deliberately destroy the government? Much worse.

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  68. Kari Q says:

    @superdestroyer:

    That almost all progressives want the U.S. to be a one party state and are willing to adopt policies like trillion dollar budget deficits, amnesty, and open borders to get it.

    That Sen. Reid is willing to alienate the Republicans just shows that the Democrats do not believe that the Republicans will ever be in the majority again.

    This post is pretty incoherent. You seem to be upset that progressives want to win elections; I thought winning elections so one could enact their preferred policies was the whole point of democracy. And apparently the only way you can be persuaded that Democrats believe in democracy is if they make sure that they never do anything that annoys Republicans. But since Republicans are in the minority, wouldn’t that be anti-democratic because it would give outsized influence to the party that got the fewest votes?

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  69. JohnMcC says:

    @James Joyner: Thank you for your comment, Dr Joyner. You and I have crossed blades and I somewhat reget that because you are obviously a deeply humanities-infused person as I also am. This Senate vote is obviously a marker that a period in our nation’s history when protocol and right-behavior could result in democratic outcomes is now past. We all should mourn this loss.

    Nowhere mentioned in this thread of comments is the ‘tea-party’ and ‘constitutional-conservative’ rejection of the 17th Amendment and the wish of the so-called-conservatives to return to the substantial role of the ‘States’ in our government. This was meaningful to the Founders to whom their first loyalty was their home communities and for whom the greater “United States of America” was an abstraction. I suppose we who write these ephemeral little electronic bursts do not think that in another age, our great-grandfathers had completely different experiences of what a ‘national’ citizenship really meant. You and I and all these others (even Mr SuperDestroyer) have the experience of following the generations that united those ‘colonies’ through a huge War Between the States as had never been expected. We share the national memories of the Greatest Generation — of the GreatDepression and WWII — and of the Silent Generation (my Peeps!) who forced the Soviets into collapse. We have together seen the Civil Rights revolution and the post-VietNam/InternetAge revolutions in consciousness.

    In another age, local communities and ‘our States’ were the only dependable places in which our voices could be heard — a standard by which we measure the business of “Democracy”. Can my voice be heard?

    In the present conditions the influence of huge corporations and vast well-funded political movements have of course superseded this archaic definition of ‘democracy’ and ‘community’.
    This has of course required changes in our method of self-governance. We should thank whatever gods we know that this change has finally occurred in the US Senate. We should demand that the continental nation that we actually are should actually have a governing principle of government of the people, by the people and for the people of that nation will prevail against the idea of govenment by the powerful/rich and of the powerful/rich and for the powerful/rich.

    A single day in that conflict has passed. But a signal victory has been won. We should all rejoice.

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  70. Grewgills says:

    @superdestroyer:
    Just move to Canada or Northern Europe already. They are a lot more liberal, but they’ll be white enough for you, so you should be happy.

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  71. G.A.Phillips says:

    The democrats are a lawless pack of criminal idiot bastards.

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  72. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @David M: Of course it’s different from then. It’s always different, you clot.

    And here’s a prediction: at some point in the future — most likely after the next election where the GOP retakes power, but before they take office — the Democrats will reverse this rule, saying things like “we hope the GOP has learned its lesson” and “let us now move forward in the spirit of comity, and put this all behind us” and the like. And there will be tremendous pressure on the GOP to go along, to not take their turn to assert their power.

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  73. JoshB says:

    If the Democrats were so eager to run roughshod over the Republicans, why didn’t they just do this on day one of Obama’s presidency? We have a very reluctant party that knows McConnell and his ilk will never, ever allow anyone to be confirmed. Obama could name the ghost of St. Reagan to the Cabinet and they would object. The right has pushed and pushed and we’ve reached a breaking point.

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  74. Mikey says:

    I’m not sure this is a good thing in the long term. Yes, the current Republican minority is bone-headed and intransigent, but future Republican minorities may not be so, and the fact the rules before yesterday required the majority to gain at least some minority support made the Senate far superior, legislatively speaking, than the House is. Now, there’s little difference between the two.

    Dana Milbank (whose liberal bona fides are hardly questionable) wrote:

    “Cloture has fostered more bipartisanship in the Senate,” Donald Ritchie, the Senate historian, told me Thursday after Reid detonated his nuclear device. “The majority leader of the Senate is expected to try to work out some kind of a bipartisan deal to get enough votes to get cloture. Because the House is run by majority rule, it is seen as a sign of weakness if the majority leadership of the House has to get votes from the minority side.”

    Now the Senate will be just as dysfunctional.

    I hope he’s being unnecessarily pessimistic, but I fear he’s not.

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  75. Barry says:

    @CB: “Can someone respond to the assertion that Bush nominees were filibustered at a higher rate than Obama? Ive seen it floated alot recently (most recently Ponnuru), but admittedly dont know enough about House and Senate rules or history to judge. ”

    Considering that the GOP had moved to a 100% rate, that’s an easy question to answer.

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  76. Rick Almeida says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Your spelling and grammar have gotten a lot better. New meds?

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  77. Mikey says:

    @CB: Here’s a report from the Congressional Research Service comparing confirmation statistics of U. S. circuit and district court nominees by presidents since Reagan.

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43058.pdf

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  78. Mikey says:

    @Mikey: So I get multiple thumbs-down for simply presenting a cautious view? I hope OTB isn’t turning into that kind of a hive-mind.

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  79. anjin-san says:

    And there will be tremendous pressure on the GOP to go along take governing seriously, like they are paid to do

    FTFY

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  80. anjin-san says:

    @ JeNos

    Alternately, you could stay true to form and say absolutely nothing of substance for the next five rounds of conversation

    Well, you are staying true to from and saying nothing of substance – ever…

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  81. Dave says:

    @Mikey: It was just 2, fer chrissake! There, I just gave you an up vote. Feel better?

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  82. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That’s what I’m saying. You’d really rather have the warmth than the voting power.

    Funny though, it would be easier for rich liberals to turn Wyoming blue than for libertarians to take … wherever it is they want to go.

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  83. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    It is nice to know that progressives really do not like Democracy but are much more powerful with a government based upon clouts and power brokers who will decide who gets the backing of the establishment and will hold the office until they either retire or are given a higher office.

    From my perspective, it’s nice to know that Conservatives are quite willing to shutd own the government and to countenance default on American Debt Securities in order to advance their agenda. I’m glad that THAT is out in the open, and so, yes, I do not want those morons in the House or the Senate.

    Call that anti-democratic if you like, but I do not want to be governed by anti-capitalist conservatives who want to cause significant damage to our financial system.

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  84. John D'Geek says:

    “It’s all automatic from here: They Launch, we Launch.” Battlestar Galactica.

    I’m apparently being censored, so I have to be careful what I say. Let me just ask, then: What exactly is a Senate Hold?

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  85. wr says:

    @A Conservative Teacher: I don’t know what you teach, but I sure hope it isn’t American history, since you clearly know nothing about it.

    Unless, of course, you want to prove me wrong by citing the first use of the sixty-vote rule in the 18th century.

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  86. wr says:

    @Rick Almeida:

    ” @G.A.Phillips:

    Your spelling and grammar have gotten a lot better. New meds? ”

    Obamacare is working!

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  87. wr says:

    @Mikey: I didn’t downvote you, but if any liberals did I expect is was because of your citing Dana Milbank as a liberal, and thus a voice for cautin and regret even from the left.

    Milbank may or may not be personally a liberal, but in his writing he is neither left nor right — he is a status quovian, a worshipper of the Washington elite, and one of many pundiets who ignores all objective evidence of difference in philosophy and tactics between the parties so he can constantly call for “bipartisanship” and “comity” and “compromise.” He’s the highly paid equivalent of Doug’s “both sides do it” — he has no interest in issues, just in his fantasy of process.

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