This Has Gone Too Far….

The news that Senate Republicans plan to filibuster the President’s nomination of (Republican) Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary ought to be the final straw.

Harry Reid clearly allowed himself to be punked, settling for a toothless agreement with Mitch McConnell rather than the genuine reform of the much-abused filibuster that he promised. And we are all paying a high price for his fecklessness.

I understand the legitimate use of that legislative weapon to prevent a majority from running roughshod over the minority. But in its current form, the filibuster is being used by a minority–by partisans whose positions were emphatically rejected by the electorate–to defeat virtually every effort undertaken by a popularly-elected majority. As a result, government has been brought to a standstill. Nothing can be done unless a super-majority vote can be rounded up–and finding sixty votes in a Senate occupied by too many small-minded, mean-spirited partisan hacks is no easy task.

At the very least, those who want to bring government to a halt should have to stand on the Senate floor and actually talk. It should not be enough for the minority members to raise their little pinkies and announce that they are “virtually” filibustering, so please go f#*#k yourself.

The intransigence of these GOP Senators has cost this country dearly during the recent economic meltdown. For every bad idea they’ve blocked, we’ve lost many more opportunities to improve the lives of middle-class Americans, to strengthen our crumbling infrastructure, to create jobs and take measures to protect the environment.

The federal legislative system is designed to work on the principle of majority rule.  A majority of those who have been elected to represent the voters is supposed to determine what laws will be enacted. That doesn’t mean that Senators who oppose legislation cannot express that opposition forcefully in their floor speeches and their votes. It does mean that when the minority party consistently refuses to allow an up-and-down majority vote, that party isn’t just blocking particular measures: it is undermining American government–and it is becoming increasingly clear that destroying the capacity to govern is not an incidental or unintended consequence of these tactics; it is the real reason for them. It’s a feature, not a bug.

Presidential nominees have never been filibustered.  Even John McCain–who has made his contempt for the man who defeated him quite plain– has argued against such an unprecedented move. If the Republicans want to vote against Hagel’s confirmation, fine. That is clearly their prerogative–although, as Dick Lugar has maintained, there should be a rebuttable presumption that the executive is entitled to his choice of those he wants populating his administration. Preventing an up-and-down vote simply because they can–motivated by spite, anti-government fervor and a level of partisanship that dwarfs anything previously seen–is beyond reprehensible. It is beyond irresponsible.

It’s despicable and profoundly unAmerican. And it needs to stop.


  1. The Senate’s role is “advise and consent”. This current mess goes way, way further than that role. In many ways, this is considerably worse than the filibustering bills, since most of those would be DOA in the current (and previous) House anyways.

    As spineless as Reid has been regarding Senate procedural reform, he really needs to do something drastic now. Between this and all the other Cabinet positions now open, not to mention all the judicial spots that are vacant, there needs to be a better way. If I were Reid, I’d ignore all holds, overrule the Senate Parliamentarian on any filibustered nominees, and confirm them all with 50+ votes.

    I understand all the outcry this would cause, but if the tables were turned, do you think Republicans wouldn’t do the same?

  2. I say call their game and let them talk until the cows come home. That might build some pressure to end the practice (by threat alone). This way, blame for not getting important business done while whining can be laid at the feet of those whose fault it is.

  3. So you’re not at all bothered by Hagel’s refusal to disclose foreign sources of income he has earned over the past several years, not to mention the worst performance of any major nominee in recent memory during his testimony before the Armed Services Committee? The guy had no clue about administration policies, and even the White House admitted to reporters they were deeply disappointed in his stumbling answers, which had to repeatedly be clarified by him and others. I also note how your views on confirming presidential nominees seem to drift depending on whether there is a Republican president or a Democratic president of your liking. What ever happened to the conspiracy theory touted by liberals that the voting machine software company Hagel once ran and held an ownership interest before it was sold to George Soros and when Hagel pretended to be a Republican was behind efforts to steal the Republican presidential race for Bush in 2000 and 2004? Hagel didn’t even bother to disclose his interest in the company in accordance with Senate rules until his small oversight was brought to the attention of others. After Hagel began attacking Bush and other Republicans and was even mentioned as a possible running mater for Obama, he suddenly became the darling of the left. Instead of attacking Republican senators’ motives for not supporting him, why don’t you explain what it is about Hagel’s background that you think makes him uniquely qualified to run the largest and most important government agency.

  4. Gary, apparently you don’t like Mr. Hagel. I respect that and it is something to be debated, but the point of the article was that the appointment deserves a vote with the voice of the majority deciding the issue, not a virtual filibuster. This is not governance with integrity, but playing the system. The virtual filibuster has not served us well and contributes to the reason why the public approves of Congress at the same level as they do cockroaches.

  5. There’s a part of me that thinks Harry Reid didn’t get punked at all. He knew this would happen, and he’s OK with it. Maybe it’s because he hopes to make political hay with it, or maybe it’s because he overly respects Senate traditions. Either way, it’s disgraceful conduct. Could you imagine the howls if Dems did this with a Republican in the White House–we’d never stop hearing about how blocking the nomination puts our national security at risk, yadda yadda yadda.

  6. Bill, Your memory is short. The Democrats in the Senate blocked votes on scores of President Bush’s nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals and nearly two dozen of his nominees to the federal district courts. They didn’t have to filibuster; they simply wouldn’t allow a vote on them. Look what the Senate Democrats did to former Sen. John Tower when the first Bush nominated him to be Defense Secretary. The former Armed Services Committee Chairman had been highly regarded until Bush nominated him and Democratis decided to derail his nomination by impugning his character by making him out to be a boozing, no-good womanizer who was unfit to be Defense Secretary. He was the first nominee voted down outright on a party-line 53-47 vote, including current Democratic Senators Reid of Nevada, Max Baucus of Montana, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Carl Levin of Michigan, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia all voted against Tower’s nomination.

    As The New York Times reported in his obituary: “Mr. Tower’s repudiation by his former colleagues, who rejected him as President Bush’s nominee for Secretary of Defense after public allegations of womanizing and heavy drinking, left a bitterness that could not be assuaged. In the normally clubby Senate, Mr. Tower was regarded by some colleagues as a gut fighter who did not suffer fools gladly, and some lawmakers indicated that they were only too pleased to rebuke him.”[15]

    In response to the alcohol allegations, Tower told The New York Times in 1990: “Have I ever drunk to excess? Yes. Am I alcohol-dependent? No. Have I always been a good boy? Of course not. But I’ve never done anything disqualifying. That’s the point.”

  7. Gary,

    You keep missing the point. If you or your ilk don’t like him, fine. But allow a vote on it. It’s not a terribly difficult concept, but I can help explain it to you slower and simpler if you’d like.

  8. I agree the vote should be allowed. However, the “virtual” filibuster is a big part of the equation. If they want to filibuster, then break out the chicken recipes and stand and talk. Otherwise, this is a hollow thing, whereby a Senator pushes a button and says, “There. I’ve filibustered,” and goes to the Hays or wherever to have his/her jollies..

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