Frustrated over Republicans’ use of the filibuster to block President Obama’s nominees to the federal courts whom they deemed too extreme, Senator Harry Reid led 51 Democrat senators to an unprecedented change of the rules this past week that effectively prevents Republicans from using the power of the filibuster to effectively block presidential nominees to any federal court other than the U.S. Supreme Court. Not content to simply do away with the requirement of a super-majority of 60 votes previously required to suspend the rules of the Senate, the majority party exercised the “nuclear option” to take away the Senate minority’s right to effectively block Senate action by refusing to yield the floor or yielding only to like-minded Senators.
If the tortured roll out of Obama care has taught us anything, one would think it is that passing legislation and then reading it is a monumentally bad idea. The rules of the House of Representatives strictly limit the time allotted to members who take the floor and the House does almost all of its work in Committees, where chairpersons from the majority party can easily quash legislation they oppose. That is why fatally flawed, unwise, unread legislation like the Affordable Care Act can pass in the House as long as the majority power votes as a single block–a fact that the current majority party in the House will most likely live to regret in the next election cycle as the American public learn about the misrepresentations, broken promises and outright lies that they were fed about lower healthcare costs for most Americans, keeping their doctors, and keeping their current insurance plans if they were satisfied with them. With this parliamentary tactic, the Senate now becomes much more like the House and the minority party loses one of the few rights it has always enjoyed–to speak at length in opposition of what any Senator believes to be a bad idea.
Senator Reid spoke eloquently and forcefully against taking away the right of Senators to filibuster presidential nominees when Republicans last held the Senate and tried to do precisely what Reid has now done. Hypocrisy aside, this is simply a bad idea. No doubt Senator Reid will once again argue for re-implementing the filibuster when the big, bad Republicans regain the Senate in the future if he is not forced to retire by irate voters in the interim.
Meantime, partisan politics will continue with the lines further hardened by this newest act in the ongoing tragicomedy that is Congress making it even harder for any meaningful compromise to be reached. Moreover, presidents will be able to pick with impunity judges who serve for life from the outer reaches of left field and right field at whim–cherry picking the newest crop of jurists from the outer reaches of the Twilight Zone, if their hearts so desire, helping to ensure a high level of volatility in federal law that can only be welcomed by anarchists.
Anyone who believes this is a good thing would do well to view Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Indeed, it should be required viewing for all of our elected officials–unless, of course, they are afraid of facing the real inconvenient truth that we are sliding ever closer to banana republic status, minus the drama of real fisticuffs in our hallowed legislative halls for the time being.