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.