The Senate Just Got Nuked

by Ryan on November 21, 2013

in Election 2014,Health Care,Judicial Watch,Politics

There is an apocryphal story from a conversation once had between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in which GW referred to the Senate as a body whose purpose was to cool House legislation as a saucer is used to cool tea.  The Senate was a slow, deliberative body to counteract the tempestuous House.  From 1789 to 1917 the 2/3 filibuster rule to end debate was in effect.  Over the years the threshold was lowered to 60 votes.

However, during the recent Bush years the idea of a “nuclear option” was given significant traction since Senate Democrats filibustered significant numbers of Bush judicial nominees.  Then-Senator Obama was quite clear how he felt about the “nuclear option” and how it would further poison our politics.  In the end, though, the Republican-controlled Senate backed away from edge.

Earlier today Harry Reid’s Democrat-controlled Senate, facing a similar issue, decided to push the red button:  Reid called for a vote to change the rule on filibustering judicial and executive nominees. After a brief parliamentary hiccup, a brave new world in the Senate was set into motion — Obama and Reid got their 52-48 simple majority vote to end a 224-year parliamentary tradition.  Three Democrats voted against the measure, standing firm with 2005 Obama.

The GOP should be outraged beyond some obligatory and obvious boilerplate responses.  Rather than tsk-tsk, they should threaten similar action once the GOP gets the Senate, which could happen in 11 months.  The Democrats want to destroy the GOP all while the GOP believes it’s the same old game.  The Stupid Party indeed.

However, the Dems aren’t thinking about the next election — they’re thinking about the party, throwing radical judges on every bench they can, and leaving a legacy which will far outlast the next Congress.  Hence, Obama’s elation.  His administration may be fatally damaged politically, but the regulatory state, the slow institutionalization of Obamacare, and all of these new judges will make Congress more and more obsolete.  Either way Obama-Reid wins while the people and the Senate as an institution lose.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

rightonoz November 22, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Guys, Do you really think the GOP would not have pulled exactly the same stunt if they were in the opposite position? All the Tea Party Loonies and the likes of Cruz would have led that charge.

While I an right wing, I believe the GOP’s position in the Senate has been nothing short of disgusting in the past few years. They have used Filibusters to block almost every appointment Obama has made. As President he has the right to make appointments, and the Senate has the right to discuss them, and vote up or down. To use the Filibuster to simply block votes is wrong regardless of party. It’s a perversion of the system. If they were genuinely trying to ensure good appointments OK, but they have been simply blocking for the sake of being bloody-minded. (As did the Dems in times past)
When the Dem’s used the filibuster Bush threatened the “Nuke”and it was the Dems who backed down, allowing appointments to go through. The GOP refused to back down this time and have been hoisted by their own petard.

Of course the GOP would/will do the same if they win control next term. It’s a shame your politics have sunk to the level of both parties being too bloody minded to chart a moderate course. Both sides are being led/hijacked by the loony extremes.

Not too late to vote for a Parliamentary Democracy – and re-write the constitution. Get rid of the obscenely expensive presidential voting system, have the majority party simply appoint a Prime Minister (Call him a president if you like the sound of the title). We have the same quotient of nutters, but govt continues to function (sort of) and tends not to get hijacked.


Ryan November 23, 2013 at 10:57 am

Yet somehow the filibuster system both worked and survived for 224 years through Congressional control by parties like the Federalists, Jeffersonian-Republicans, Whigs, and eventually Democrats and Republicans, through foreign and civil wars, civil unrest, and a dozen economic calamities.

In 2005, as you mentioned, the GOP could have made this move since the Democrats had held up an unprecedented amount of appointees from George W. Bush at the time. Yet, the GOP did not do it, forming a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” to prevent a sudden rule change like what happened this week.

Where was that “Gang” this time? The Dems look at procedure and precedent very differently when in the minority, which further underscores why partisan minority rights need to be respected and maintained in a body like the US Senate.

The problem with the loons on the extremes is that the center is broken. The status quo sees unsustainable debts, the eventual collapse of our social safety nets, loss of legitimacy and prestige on the world stage, etc. Without significant course changes we are staring some kind of earth-shattering collapse in the face within a generation.

Math doesn’t lie and we have two ways of dealing with it, both requiring a major shift in the governing paradigm of the last 70 years — the extreme left sees the path to some form of national socialism, while the extreme right wants a return to individual liberty and responsibility. Mainstream America is nowhere near those two points at present and the political tensions of today express that conflict. In my opinion, the more sustainable alternative is on the right.

With the Constitution seeming more like a list of suggestions these days rather than the law of the land, I wouldn’t be surprised if we aren’t on our way to some kind of a parliamentary system. How many more crappy Presidents can we have before the people get sick of it?


rightonoz November 23, 2013 at 11:49 am

Apologies in advance.

Agree something needs to be done on deficit, however there are other paths.

Just wondering aloud..A tax system that closes some of the loopholes the mega-rich use, (letting them avoid tax in the hope they spend some and it trickles down has failed in almost every country) and a review of the layers of govt. Our GA office have to pay taxes/sales taxes/fees, etc at Fed, State, County and City level. Apart from the expense,the endless forms kills us. The waste and bureaucracy is maddening, compared to what we put up with down here.

Aus for instance has one 10% sales tax (GST) collected by the ATO (IRS) then handed out to the States. We only deal with Fed taxes and State Stamp duty on commercial contracts. Towns/cities collect property rates only. (I’m not saying it’s perfect).

If we (AUS) did away with States and had Federal Police, health, education we would save $billions per year, and have one less level of political leeches to worry about. How much would the US save? How many thousands of worthless politicians would be unemployable? (Political pipe-dreaming)

While I applaud those who GENUINELY try to reign in excess spending, it often seems those very politicians that make the most noise (Cruz comes to mind) consistently insert pork barrel that lines their, and their cronies pockets, while hammering those at the bottom of the heap. A cut, cut mantra without considering addressing revenue at the same time hasn’t been sustainable anywhere I’ve seen. Even worse is the spend/spend without equally considering revenue and sustainability. There HAS to be a workable to the right, but not loony right solution.

What’s a sane person to do? Go bush and live off the land? I hear Uruguay has a high standard of living and loves entrepreneurs.


Mike November 24, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Hi Oz

You raise some good points about politicians inserting pork barrel items into spending bills, though I don’t know if Cruz does it nearly as often as you suggest (he might; I honestly don’t know). But that becomes much less of a problem if government shrinks to the level that those like Cruz, Mike Lee, candidate Marco Rubio (he is admittedly untrustworthy), and Rand Paul support. At that point, inserting pork barrel items and/or exemptions from rules and regulations into legislation would be far more noticeable than it is now.

As to your filibuster point, in 2005, most Republicans foolishly tried to do exactly what you say they would try to do. But a sufficient number of Republicans stopped it. So, I say, no, the Republicans would not have tried to do the exact the same thing.

I support the filibuster because it served as an effective constraint on government power for so long. But I think both parties (and maybe all parties if the Republicans keep standing for nothing) need to face reality. The filibuster is over if the Democrats are just going to obliterate it whenever it serves its purposes. I say get rid of it now so both parties play by the same rules.

By the way, where have you ever seen a government supporting a “cut, cut mantra?” And I don’t mean slowing the rate of growth.

Ending on some common ground, I’ve actually searched the internet for “going Galt” locales. Ha ha. I heard Chile was pretty good.


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