Friday, November 22, 2013

Harry Grows A Pair a.k.a. A Vote For Good Governance

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Yesterday (11-21-13) afternoon, a majority of Senate Democrats said enough was enough with the obstruction by Senate Republicans.  In a vote of 52 to 48 (with 3 Democrats voting with Republicans), the Senate ended the use of the filibuster (silent or otherwise) on non-Supreme Court judicial nominees as well as administrative nominees.

This was an historic event and one that had been promised/threatened for almost five years by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Time after time though, we saw a "gentleman's agreement" be reached by Senate Majority Leader Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell which preserved the filibuster in exchange for some of the current nominees to get an actual floor vote.  Shortly thereafter, the Senate Republicans were back to their game of filibustering every nomination and every item of business.

So much for "gentleman's agreements".

But yesterday's vote wasn't just about ensuring an "up or down" vote of the President's nominees.  It was also about good governance.  Since Senator McConnell infamously declared that the Senate Republican's number one goal was to defeat the President, they have done nothing by obstruct the business of the United States.  Every piece of legislation, even if it has "bi-partisan" support, requires 60 votes just to get the "up or down" vote due to the "silent" filibuster.  (A silent filibuster is when a threat of a filibuster is mentioned.)

The Senate has ground to a halt.  Judicial and administrative nominees have been in limbo.  Hell, for more than a year, Senate Republicans filibustered naming members to the Budget Conference Committee.

This wasn't always the case.  The filibuster was once a useful and rarely used tool of the minority (party or view) to be heard on a subject.  You actually had to stand up and speak to filibuster.  The last filibuster was during the debate on the Civil Rights Act.  Then there was filibuster "reform", which was supposed to allow the Senate to do its business while a piece of legislation was "silently" filibustered.  It was still not commonly used and then used only on the most controversial appointments and/or legislation.

But that all changed with the election Barack Obama as President.  The nation's business no longer mattered to Senate Republicans.  What mattered was stopping the President's agenda and his nominees, at all costs.  Our nation is at a standstill due to the childishness of those supposedly elected to serve this nation.

Now that is all changed.  Yes, the silent filibuster is still in place for legislation (though I think that is only a temporary issue), but for now, at least, the President's judicial and administrative nominees will get "up or down" votes of the full Senate and at least part of the nation's business will get done.

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