Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Times They Are a-Changin' or Too Bad Chief Justice Estrada Can't Settle This

It's really too easy to note how hypocritical the Senate is to go with the nuclear option, but what fascinates me is no matter how obvious, no one can see their own hypocrisy.  Back in the old days, eight years ago, when the Republicans ruled the roost, they were frustrated by Democrats blocking their candidates, and considered getting rid of the filibuster rule that allowed 41 votes to send back any nominee the President sent over.  Democrats--including Senators Obama and Clinton--denounced this potential change, saying it attacked the very meaning of the Senate and democracy itself.  Ultimately, the Republicans backed away.

Now the Democrats find themselves in a similar position and decided that's enough, we're going nuclear.  And it's no big deal, stop complaining, live with it.  The President applauds the action, of course.  The New York Times editorializes that it's about time in "Democracy Returns To The Senate."  Compare this to the 2005 editorial where they explained the necessity of the rule, particularly for the President's nominations:

While the filibuster has not traditionally been used to stop judicial confirmations, it seems to us this is a matter in which it's most important that a large minority of senators has a limited right of veto. Once confirmed, judges can serve for life and will remain on the bench long after Mr. Bush leaves the White House. And there are few responsibilities given to the executive and the legislature that are more important than choosing the members of the third co-equal branch of government. The Senate has an obligation to do everything in its power to ensure the integrity of the process.

(You might think that legislation, the primary business of the Senate, is where the body can make its own rules, while voting on appointments, which are the primary duty of the President, would be harder to justify--a Senate regulation preventing an Executive decision--but let's not worry about that for now.)

Somewhat ironically (or maybe not ironic at all), this 2005 editorial was an apology, as the Times was officially changing its mind:

A decade ago, this page expressed support for tactics that would have gone even further than the "nuclear option" in eliminating the power of the filibuster. At the time, we had vivid memories of the difficulty that Senate Republicans had given much of Bill Clinton's early agenda. But we were still wrong. To see the filibuster fully, it's obviously a good idea to have to live on both sides of it. We hope acknowledging our own error may remind some wavering Republican senators that someday they, too, will be on the other side and in need of all the protections the Senate rules can provide.

I guess those Republicans read the Times and held off on changing the rule, realizing they might some day hope the Democrats would do the same.  Suckers.

Of course, according to the Times circa 2013, things are different now:

Given the extreme degree of Republican obstruction during the Obama administration, the Democrats had little choice but to change the filibuster rule.

Of course it's different.  While Obama and Clinton were president, it was the Republicans blocking Democrats, and that's bad.  While Bush was President, it was Democrats blocking Republicans, and that's good.  And if the Republicans take back the Senate and the White House, it'll be wrong again, and you can bet the Paper of Record will change their view once again, without any hypocrisy involved.

PS  From another 2005 Times editorial against the nuclear option:

Of all the hollow arguments Senate Republicans have made in their attempt to scrap the opposition's right to have a say on President Bush's judicial nominees, the one that's most hypocritical insists that history is on their side in demanding a "simple up-or-down vote" on the Senate floor. [....] This is all part of the Senate's time-honored deliberative role and of its protection of minority rights, which Republican leaders would now desecrate in overreaching from their majority perch.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hypocrisy, as always, is in the eye of the dishonest beholder.

12:47 PM, November 22, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you're talking about the Dems adn Reps, Anon.

So the Dems have gone big on two things now, Obamacare and the nuke op. Am I missing a third? Have the Reps done anything? Seems to me they're too busy apologizing for not being Dems to have had the time.

1:00 PM, November 22, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hypocrisy is in the eye of Eric Holder.

1:00 PM, November 22, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well in 2005 really bad appointments and worse, Federalist Society types, were being blocked so I have no problem. (where do you get this false equivalency between the two parties? geesh) Also I think 7 or 8 judges were blocked back then and now its every single appointment- when folks take the illogical step of pushing things to their logical conclusions, that usually means the system is going to get changed

The next principled stand about a procedural rule will be the first principled stand about a procedural rule

5:31 AM, November 23, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intersting, immediatley preceding anon (anon 2 here, and I'm too lazy to count).

I more or less agree with you, except for two things, one, what's wrong with the Federalist Society? They've done some great stuff, and the tone of your post suggests you might be open to that idea.

Second, I love your "false equivalence" thing. You're completely right. Democrats are outraged by the false equivalance and so are Republicans. Equal outrage, but I think they each mean something different.

So where do you stand? I half suspect you froth at the mouth when you hear "Bush," and that's supported by your 2005 time reference. But you are spot on that false equivlance is a problem and that darned few people care about procedure.

8:51 AM, November 23, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same anon here--wonderful ambiguity and an opportunity that shouldn't be missed. I suppose I should go back and look at timing of 2005 appointments, but it would be delish if that was the Harriet Meiers fiasco and the chief justice (you know, the guy who would protect us from Obamacare) and Alito.

If so, which were the "really bad" appointments (or anyway, nominations)?

Personally, I sort of love Alito and the Chief, even though I'm appalled by the Chief's choice on Obamacare.

But the flip side is that, however disastrous I think Meiers would have been, I suspect she played a role in choosing Bush's very first class of nominations, which included several good choices that showed a principled intelligence to what they were doing.

Needless to say, if you don't like those principles, there are others, and your description of the class as "good" or "bad" will follow.

9:00 AM, November 23, 2013  

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