Dropping Da Bomb

Obama Administration

Jeremy Peters reports in the New York Times that “Senate Democrats are on the verge of moving to eliminate the use of the filibuster against most presidential nominees.” This would be for cabinet posts and the federal judiciary, I understand. The filibuster could still be used for Supreme Court nominees and other legislation.

The problem, as Democrats see it, is that Republicans have effectively rewritten Senate rules to create a supermajority requirement for confirming presidential nominees. Filibustering cabinet-level officials, once extremely rare, is now routine.

While Democrats filibustered their share of judicial nominees when they were in the minority under President George W. Bush, including people named to the powerful District of Columbia appeals court, what Republicans say they intend to accomplish goes beyond simply blocking a vote. Their goal is to reshape the nation’s most powerful appeals court by shrinking it to just eight full-time judges. By law it has 11 judges who regularly hear cases.

Democrats said that was a step too far. The court is split with four judges appointed by Democrats and four by Republicans. But among the six semiretired judges who still hear cases, five are seen as conservative, one as liberal.

Ryan Grim writes for the Hufington Post,

It’s still not clear if Reid has the 51 votes to make the change, but it certainly looks close. There are 55 Democrats in total, which means Reid can lose up to four. HuffPost tracked down a number of Democrats on Tuesday to see who remains opposed to making the change, and only one, Levin, definitively said no. A couple of others, Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), avoided the question.

See also Gail Collins:

“If the Democrats proceed to use this nuclear option in this way, it will be Obamacare II,” cried Senator Lamar Alexander on Wednesday. This was in keeping with a brand-new Congressional tradition under which Republicans making remarks on the floor of the House or Senate are required to mention the Affordable Care Act at least once every 35 seconds. …

… Since the nominees were two women and a black man, Democrats have strongly suggested — well, you know.

“When the other side gets desperate, they turn to their last line of defense: accuse us Republicans of bias,” said Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa during a brief and rather desultory debate.

Yes, and when the Republicans get desperate they … wait for it.

“There is no crisis in the D.C. Circuit because they don’t have enough work to do as it is,” said Grassley. “There is a crisis occurring now all across the country as a result of the health care reform bill that often goes by the terminology of Obamacare.”

Honestly, it’s a wonder they make it through the opening prayer.

Grassley argued that reducing the size of the DC court by three judges would save the country $3 million a year. Whether a DC circuit court judge really costs the country a million a year is unclear, but Collins says $3 million is still a lot less than the $50 million Grassley once wanted to build an indoor rain forest near Des Moines.

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  1. Stephen Stralka  •  Nov 21, 2013 @12:08 pm

    If the Republicans want to reduce the DC court by three judges, the way to do that would be to introduce a bill, get it passed by both houses of Congress, and then convince the president to sign it. As it stands, Congress has decided that the court should have eleven judges, and a congressional minority does not get to change Congress’s mind.

    It’s the exact same stunt they tried to pull with ObamaCare, come to think of it, so there’s the ACA yet again. The idea that states can nullify federal laws has been around for a while. Now apparently they’ve developed a new theory that the minority party can nullify federal laws.

  2. dan  •  Nov 21, 2013 @12:23 pm

    Gotta admire the Republicans: McConnell can sure spin a lie like no other. I almost believed what he said about “the Democrats started it” (no, really, he said exactly that!). The only reason I don’t believe him is, well, I remember the past (unlike most of his audience).

    There is a slight difference between Bush’s wholesale firing of judges for ideological purity reasons and having his subsequent nominees questioned and Obama’s appointing judges to replace retiring members.

    McConnell’s blatant lie about ‘not enough work for them to do’ is debunked when one considers that there are multiple (the article above says 6) judges staying on to cover the workload, thus making the DC Court merely an ideological arm of the Tea Party for far too long after the elections are over.

  3. Swami  •  Nov 21, 2013 @1:43 pm

    More cowbell, more Benghazi!

  4. Swami  •  Nov 21, 2013 @2:01 pm

    Ha, Reid did it.. Good for him. He made the right move. Regardless of what future political costs might come to be as a result on limiting the filibuster, something had to be done to alleviate the incessant Repug obstructionism. The Repugs need to end their campaign to destroy Obama’s presidency and get on with working for the American people. Enough of their political games!

  5. biggerbox  •  Nov 21, 2013 @2:09 pm

    According to TPM, it just happened. So far I haven’t seen cracks appear in the Earth’s surface and lava flowing through the streets, but I’m a long way from DC, so who knows. Reading the play-by-play made it abundantly clear that all we are really talking about it a minor adjustment to an obscure rule about what happens when other byzantine rules are applied following a vote after another vote following another vote, and that describing it as “nuclear” is only appropriate in that it’s operating at a microscopic level of detailed abstraction.

    Frankly, blowing the whole accretion of obscure procedural rules away completely sounds a lot more attractive than what actually happened. It’s about time those Senators were reminded that they are making real decisions, not just arranging layers of complex legal language in pretty patterns.

    But anyway, now apparently lower court judges and appointees will now be able to get past a GOP filibuster on a majority vote, though I think Supremes and Cabinet types are not affected by this change.

  6. Mike G  •  Nov 21, 2013 @5:44 pm

    “If the Democrats proceed to use this nuclear option in this way, it will be Obamacare II,” cried Senator Lamar Alexander

    Meaning, something good for the nation that must be stopped because it is bad for the Repuke party.

  7. justme277  •  Nov 21, 2013 @6:41 pm

    As an Iowa resident I personally would like to see Grassley be put out to pasture,,, that right there would save the American tax payer almost 200k, and when you tell this to other Iowa residents they want to know what the pasture ever did to me to deserve that.