Senate Leader Harry Reid finally discovered that he is not an invertebrate and pressed The Button and went nuclear today. Going nuclear is a catchy phrase for what is an otherwise dull parliamentary procedure. Reid and most of the Democrats voted to change the Senate’s filibuster rules. Until today, it required a super-majority of sixty votes in the Senate to get a presidential nominee an up or down vote on their confirmation. Now, except for the Supreme Court all nominees require only a simple majority vote. In addition to Supreme Court nominations, all legislation is still subject to the traditional sixty vote bar.
According to Wiki, the etymology of the word filibuster is derived from piracy:
The English term ‘filibuster’ derives from the Spanish filibustero, itself deriving originally from the Dutch vrijbuiter. The Spanish form entered the English language in the 1850s, as applied to military adventurers from the United States then operating in New World Spanish colonies.
Transitioning from high-seas piracy to political pirates, let talk about today’s US Senate filibuster rule change. Even before the Obama administration, Democrats began increased usage of the filibuster as a tool to block Bush administration nominations. Though with the advent of Obama’s presidency, Republicans have escalated the use of the filibuster and blocked more appointments by this modern president than any before. After years of abuse, several periods of brinksmanship and recent taunting from the right, the Democrats have decided that enough is enough, broke with tradition and changed the Senate rules.
What caused the dam to break was the recent Republican filibustering of three judicial nominees to the DC Appeals Court, arguably the second most important court in the land. Currently this court is pretty evenly split between the two parties. Filling the three open positions will swing the court to the left. Obama’s nominations are political, but why shouldn’t they be? Our elections should have consequences, otherwise why hold them?
Now that the dam has burst, the Republicans have really opened the judicial flood gates. There are over ninety open Federal bench seats. Under the filibuster only a fraction of those seats could have been expected to be filled. Now, without the filibuster the promise of filling all open judgeships has a real opportunity to occur. Filling those open ninety seats will shift the near 50-50 Democrat-Republican Federal judicial balance to a new 55-45 split. Like I said before, elections should have consequences.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately issued a warning to Democrats. He warned that they would rue this day and sooner than they might think. Mr. McConnell first needs to win his own reelection next year to make good on his threat. Today’s victory will act as a powerful incentive to get out the Democratic vote in next year’s midterm elections. Democrats will be continuously reminded of today with a steady stream of confirmed judges, between now and then and prove again that elections do have consequences.