So, if you weren’t keeping up with politics last week, and I barely was, honestly, thanks to the growing “to do” mound on my desk at work, the Senate Democrats got rid of the Filibuster on Presidential judicial and executive nominees. In case you don’t know how it works, the President appoints judges and executives and then the Senate approves them via the “consent” clause of the Constitution. (If you already know all this then skip to paragraph two). All that means is the Senate either says yes or it says no. Well, that’s all over now. As of just last week, the Senate could engage or threaten to engage in near endless debate which would result in a judicial nominee not making the cut and being sent on their way unless 60% of the body’s 100 members voted to overrule the filibuster (called cloture). In earlier, better, years, Senate members only engaged in a filibuster when the nominees were very very bad. In fact, they barely ever did it at all because it’s generally been the viewpoint of the Senate that a President has the right to appoint his own judges and that should basically be left alone even if you give them a hard time during the approval process which always happened no matter who was in the Senate minority.
Now the Senate can approve judges through a simple majority which makes more sense anyway. Regardless, it’s important to understand that the filibuster isn’t a Constitution institution, it’s simply part of the rules that the Senate set for itself. Senate rules can be changed with a simple majority. So, what does this mean?
It means that now whoever is in charge, Democrats or Republicans, can now pass Presidential judicial and executive nominations with a simple majority. It means less gridlock. That’s all. Truthfully, in the political context in which this rule has been changed it means almost nothing. The GOP was already holding everything up. They can’t really do more. However, what some people fear is that the Senate majority will do away with the filibuster on other issues as well meaning that the majority could always pass whatever bills they wanted without the minority having a way to stop them.
I’m here to tell you that I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Given the extreme entrenchment of the Parties, the filibuster currently does only one thing. It protects whoever is in the minority in the Senate from having to compromise in order to get things they want. In my opinion, the Democrats should have gotten rid of the filibuster for everything. In the current climate, it contributes to partisanship rather than protecting the minority’s constituency. The Democrats didn’t do that because, well, because they’re stupid. The filibuster needs to go, the Democrats need to pass some things.
Now what will happen is that when the Republicans regain the Senate, and they eventually will, they’ll simply kick the filibuster out of the way totally citing the “abuse” they received when the Democrats started the repeal ball rolling. Then they’ll get a bunch of stuff passed that they want and Democrats will howl and whine because they were too stupid and wimpy to do it first. They’ll appeal to the American people and the American people won’t care, at all. Why do I think this? Well, Mitch McConnell basically promised to make Democrats regret getting rid of the filibuster for judicial and executive nominations. The Democrats have basically set the table for him to get rid of it altogether if the GOP gets the majority in the coming mid-term elections.
Very stupid, Harry Reid. Half assing isn’t the way you get things done. It’s the way you get a knife in the back as soon as you’re in the minority. You’ll be standing there with a knife sticking out of your back and nothing to show for it. Still though, even if it’s the GOP that finally does the deed, I’ll be glad to see the filibuster go. I’ve heard enough talk. Let’s get some bills passed, make some mistakes, and move forward. After all, they’re supposed to be setting policy, not debating issues until they no longer matter and the nation is communally suicidal.
Our government has become far too slow moving. Whether speeding it up would be for good or ill in the short term we need government to start doing things again and getting rid of a mechanism that’s only used as a tool of intransigence is a good start.