With Senate Republicans filibustering the nominations of Patricia Ann Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to be the new head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Senate Democrats are once again threatening to eliminate the filibuster for executive, and now, judicial nominees.
“If the Republican caucus finds … that somehow a filibuster is warranted, I believe this body will have to consider whether a rules change should be in order. If Republican senators are going to hold nominations hostage without consideration of individual merit, we will have drastic measures,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy in a floor speech.
“I just think we should bite the bullet and change the rules at this point,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) declared to reporters after the votes.
Usually, when this happens, Senate Republicans fold and then allow confirmation for the nominees they previously said they opposed.
That’s what happened this past July, when Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Thomas Perez for the Department of Labor, and Gina McCarthy for the Environmental Protection Agency were all confirmed. That is, after Senate Democrats threatened to torpedo Rule XXII that gives the minority party the power to block almost any floor action.
“The filibuster on executive nominees has been eliminated in all but name only,” Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens said at the time.
“[Senate Republicans] might as well have just changed the rules if they never intend to invoke them to block radical nominees,” he added.
And that is precisely where the Senate GOP finds itself once again. Whatever their legitimate reasons for blocking Millett and Watt, with Democrats once again threatening to take away the filibuster, it is time to call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) bluff.
For, if they intend on caving once again into Reid’s pressure to simply rubber stamp every nominee that the White House puts forward, what is the point of having a filibuster rule in the first place that can never be used?
They should double dare Reid to kill the filibuster.
Then, he can do so knowing that when Republicans eventually do reclaim the Senate and the White House, they can confirm anybody they like to rein in the excesses of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the Federal Reserve with a simple majority vote.
Reid can also risk the political fallout of eliminating the filibuster in the 2014 election cycle, when Democrats must defend 21 out of the 35 Senate seats that are up, many in not-so-safe states like Alaska, Louisiana, and West Virginia.
Sure, there will be those who complain that the Senate’s so-called cooling saucer will have been shattered. Let them.
There is no point in having a rule to block nominees that is never allowed to be invoked. How, exactly, will the filibuster be saved by promising never to use it again?
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.