Democrisy: The New York Times and the filibuster

From The New York Times:

Democracy Returns to the Senate

By The Editorial Board | November 21, 2013

For five years, Senate Republicans have refused to allow confirmation votes on dozens of perfectly qualified candidates nominated by President Obama for government positions. They tried to nullify entire federal agencies by denying them leaders. They abused Senate rules past the point of tolerance or responsibility. And so they were left enraged and threatening revenge on Thursday when a majority did the only logical thing and stripped away their power to block the president’s nominees.

In a 52-to-48 vote that substantially altered the balance of power in Washington, the Senate changed its most infuriating rule and effectively ended the filibuster on executive and judicial appointments. From now on, if any senator tries to filibuster a presidential nominee, that filibuster can be stopped with a simple majority, not the 60-vote requirement of the past. That means a return to the democratic process of giving nominees an up-or-down vote, allowing them to be either confirmed or rejected by a simple majority.

The only exceptions are nominations to the Supreme Court, for which a filibuster would still be allowed. But now that the Senate has begun to tear down undemocratic procedures, the precedent set on Thursday will increase the pressure to end those filibusters, too.

This vote was long overdue. “I have waited 18 years for this moment,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa.

So, at least one Democratic senator had wanted to end the filibuster for a very long time.

It would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, when the majority leader, Harry Reid, was still holding out hope for a long-lasting deal with Republicans and insisting that federal judges, because of their lifetime appointments, should still be subject to supermajority thresholds. But Mr. Reid, along with all but three Senate Democrats, was pushed to act by the Republicans’ refusal to allow any appointments to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, just because they wanted to keep a conservative majority on that important court.

Oh, so the Editors approved of ending filibusters of judicial nominees for political reasons, at least in 2013. It seems that they supported the use of the filibuster against judicial nominees, at least when that nominee was Samuel Alito:

Senate Democrats, who presented a united front against the nomination of Judge Alito in the Judiciary Committee, seem unwilling to risk the public criticism that might come with a filibuster — particularly since there is very little chance it would work. Judge Alito’s supporters would almost certainly be able to muster the 60 senators necessary to put the nomination to a final vote.

A filibuster is a radical tool. It’s easy to see why Democrats are frightened of it. But from our perspective, there are some things far more frightening. One of them is Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.

Neil Gorsuch was a perfect nominee: extremely well qualified, and opposed by the Democrats solely for political reasons. And you can count on it: had Hillary Clinton won the election, the Democrats regained control of the Senate — something they believed they would do in the 2016 elections — and a Republican minority filibustered whomever Mrs Clinton appointed to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat (hint: it would not have been Merrick Garland), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the Democrats would have extended the ‘Reid option’ to cover Supreme Court nominees.

The Republicans are not above a bit of hypocrisy themselves, having refused to consider Judge Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the way that then-Majority Leader refused to schedule votes for many of President Bush’s nominees. But, in the end, the best thing for our country is going to happen: Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed as an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court.

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