“Dictator” Reid Seizes Power in Senate

I can’t wait for the day Republicans take back the Senate and remind Harry Reid what it’s like to be in the minority. Considering last week’s shameful power-grab, he clearly doesn’t remember.

Several days ago, Senate Democrats (52 of them to be exact; I applaud the three — Carl Levin, Mark Pryor, and Joe Manchin — who joined Republicans in opposing the change) voted to eliminate filibuster rights in the case of extra-Supreme Court judicial nominations and “executive office appointments.” That is to say, approving “federal judge […] and executive-office appointments” will henceforth require 51 votes in Senate, as opposed to the 60 required before. Dana Milbank described this change perfectly: a naked power-grab. 

Filibusters serve one purpose: protecting the minority. This week, Harry Reid and his Democratic cronies destroyed much of that protection, changing the rules such that President Obama only needs a 51-vote majority to approve his judicial nominations. Therefore, because Republican support is no longer a necessity (there are 55 Democrats in the Senate), Obama can effectively appoint any judge he wants, regardless of political affiliation, to any court he pleases. The Democrats certainly won’t stop him (at least not in large enough numbers) and the Republicans can’t. In effect, Harry Reid did much more than change a rule; he paved the way for the most partisan judiciary in American history.

To be clear, I’m not only attacking this rule change because it allows Obama to stack the courts; I’m attacking it because, from now on, any President, provided his party controls the Senate, can stack the courts. You think Alito, Thomas, and Ginsburg are reactionary? Just wait. It’s going to get a lot worse. 

Fortunately, Supreme Court nominations still require 60 votes. That said, it would be naive to think Reid doesn’t want to abolish that rule as well, with Justice Ginsburg turning 80 this year and the possibility of a Republican victory looming in 2016. Mark my words: this change will not exempt Supreme Court nominations for long. Provided the President’s party controls the Senate, he will be able to stack the courts to his heart’s content.

Democrats don’t seem to think this is a problem. Of course, they held quite a different opinion when they were in the minority. Joe Biden had this to say in 2005:

“The nuclear option abandons America’s sense of fair play . . . tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field. I say to my friends on the Republican side: You may own the field right now, but you won’t own it forever. I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.”

Senator Obama chimed in as well:

“What [the American people] don’t expect is for one party, be it Republican or Democrat, to change the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet […] the American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster, if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse…”

In 2005, Obama opposed Reid’s so-called “nuclear option.” Eight years later, he applauded the Senate for embracing it. Clearly, he evolved.

I don’t wish to focus on the Democrats’ hypocrisy, though the Senate’s action reeks of it. The issue here is the rule change itself. Federal judges are extremely powerful. Hot-button issues like abortion, gay marriage, and Obamacare either have been or will be decided in the courts. Simply put, these people hold immense sway in American politics. As such, making their appointment contingent on a bare majority of the Senate, rather than a significant portion of its members (nine votes make a huge difference), is ludicrous and represents nothing more than an attempt to muzzle the opposition. 

I can only hope Republicans return the judicial filibuster to its rightful state when they take back the Senate, regardless of whether or not a Republican (Chris Christie) occupies the White House. Until then, we must suffer the reign of Harry Reid, who changed the rules to suit his purposes and threw decorum to the wind. What a leader, my friends, what a leader.

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