Pushed Too Far

Remember the old comic book ad in which a bully kicks sand in the face of a skinny guy, and the skinny kid takes a Charles Atlas course, muscles up, and comes back to flatten his tormenter?

I think Harry Reid took that course!

Yesterday, Reid invoked the “nuclear option,” changing the Senate’s rules in order to permit most Presidential nominees to be approved by a simple majority.

If you are old enough, you may remember when such majority rule was the rule. The filibuster–a procedural mechanism devised by the Senate itself and found nowhere in the Constitution–was until recently employed only rarely, and usually by a Senator who actually filibustered, a Senator who talked until he could no longer hold out. During the George W. Bush administration, Democrats used it more frequently, but it was only with the election of Barack Obama that things got seriously out of hand.

As media reports have confirmed, early in the Obama Administration, Congressional Republicans decided to block any and all measures coming from the White House. The merits of the proposals, the bona fides of nominees, the desires of the electorate–none of those things would matter. And they would no longer bother to actually filibuster–they’d just say “we’re filibustering, so you need sixty votes” to pass this bill or confirm this nominee.

There’s a Yiddish word for that: chutzpah. 

The GOP’s goal was simple: deny this President any victory, no matter how small, no matter how good for the country, no matter if the proposal had originally been their own.

Case in point: Lawyers and judges have pleaded with lawmakers to fill the mounting  and unprecedented vacancies that have slowed justice to a crawl and brought business to a halt in many of the nation’s federal courts. Legal organizations and the ABA have sounded the alarm. No matter. Senate Republicans have kept focused on their primary mission: say No to this President.

They finally pushed the Democrats too far.

Reid’s reluctance to “go nuclear” has been clear for some time. But it  finally became obvious even to him that the alternative was another three years of stalemate, another three years of national drift, of getting virtually nothing done.

The Constitution requires a simple majority vote to pass bills and confirm most nominees. Except in a few specific instances, it does not require a super-majority. And yet, for the past five years, the GOP’s constant abuse of the filibuster has effectively required a super-majority for even the most mundane and previously uncontroversial actions.

The Party of No has used the filibuster to throw sand in the gears of the Senate–as a way to refuse to do the people’s business so long as Obama occupies the White House. Senate Republican leadership made a calculation: they would stand united to ensure the failure of the hated (black/Kenyan/Muslim) Obama, and the Democrats wouldn’t have the balls to go nuclear.

It was a reasonable bet, but it turned out to be wrong.

The skinny weakling grew a pair.



  1. Actually, Democratic filibusters during the Bush administration were only somewhat higher than Republican filibusters during the Clinton administration, but Democratic filibusters of Bush nominees were actually fewer than Republican filibusters of Clinton nominees. It was during the Clinton presidency that the use of the filibuster against nominations first became a tool. http://blog.wallack.us/2013/11/the-filibuster.html

  2. It is long overdue for President Obma to “go nuclear” and push his presidential powers to the limit. He appears to have no control over anything but placing wreaths on graves while Boehner and his gang members run this country – if coming to a standstill can be considered as “running” anything. I have heard others say that it is time for the President to “grow a pair” and, although I am 100% behind him, I must agree. The Democratic members of the House also need to “go nuclear” in the media to make the inside back-biting and cat-fighting public so we know who is doing – or not doing – their job of representing the best interests of their constituents. The people who elected them need to rethink their selections because the entire country is paying the price of GOP obstructionism. It is not only Democrats and our first biracial President and their supporters who are suffering through this nonsense; Republicans don’t seem to realize their own problems are caused by their choices at the polls. Again I repeat my little old Irish mother’s advice, “Either s**t or get off the pot!”

    And for Ryan to state, “…the poor need Jesus, not food stamps” is beyond belief for people of any faith. The poor are praying to Jesus for help – including food stamps.

  3. Let’s put some perspective on this. The rule change applies only to some presidential appointments/nominations, not legislation. The Democrats’ legislative agenda will still be subject to roadblocks in the Senate–not to mention in the current House. I think it was Ezra Klein of WaPo who pointed out that it seems the Democrats in the Senate concluded that their (and the President’s) legislative agenda is dead in the water, so they might as well get some of the nominations through.

  4. I think the earlier comment is right….that there is little hope for legislation passing with the crazy crowd still in Washington. NOW is the time to get the courts filled with competent people, get the administrative posts filled and then get moving with EVERYTHING that can be done by and though the executive branch. Congress is a dead issue for now. Time to concentrate and WHAT can we get done with the executive powers. Lets get busy.

  5. Bill sees it pretty clear. Not much will change because not much will be changed. POTUS never was an agent of change although he ran on that mantra. How many times did he vote ‘present’ while in the senate? BHO could close Gitmo tororrow simply by ordering the command deactivated.. Each prisioner costs over 2 Mil to keep. He could claim it was to cut taxes! GOP wouldn’t know what to say. Just suppose he had refused to man the new Navy destroyer just launched. It would still be sitting in the ways and the DOD would be exposed as incompetent with public funds. Nope! Full honors with flag officers on hand. All this can be changed with a simple order from the CIC. But he doesn’t know he is CIC because he doesn’t know what CIC is and no one will tell him. But, boy can he do the electric slide!

  6. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (HWL, maybe?) reminded us in stanzas 7-9 of “A Psalm of Life”. . .

    “Lives of great men all remind us
    We can make our lives sublime,
    And departing, leave behind us
    Footprints on the sands of time;

    “Footprints, that perhaps another,
    Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
    Seeing, shall take heart again.

    “Let us, then, be up and doing,
    With a heart for any fate;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
    Learn to labor and to wait.”

    The last stanza is where we are, and Harry Reid (HR to those who love an acronym) has decided that we really should be ‘up and doing’. Action is certainly preferred over inaction!

    BAW, remembering JFK, RFK, and MLK, and their contributions to the…um…USA

  7. Just arrived in my mailbox: “Politically Incoherent” CD, from the mind of “Rocky Mountain” Mike, featuring Jim Ward. You remember Jim Ward from the now-defunct Stephanie Miller Show on the now-defunct Current TV.

    “It’s My Party (And I’ll Lie if I Want To)” is too funny! They’re all there–Barack, Sarah, Mitch, Grover, Boehner, Skeeter, Rick Perry, and more! The CD can be found at amazon.com and is guaranteed for a chuckle!

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