The battle between Congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama will likely be what defines his presidency. Every single victory he’s had in his four plus years in office has been hard fought. Obamacare was passed on pretty much a party line vote that wouldn’t have been possible had Democrats not controlled the entirety of Congress at the time. When the Republicans were able to take advantage of voter fatigue and confused, misinformed outrage of Obamacare and take back the House, it started a period of nearly unprecedented obstruction, two years were spent with the Republicans blocking every effort President Obama made to bolster the economy’s sluggish if not persistent recovery. That obstruction culminated in a battle of ideologies in last year’s presidential election, with Obama’s message of smart and more involved government winning out over Mitt Romney’s message of “Hey, rich people, want to be richer? Vote for meeeeeeeeeeee!”
The most commonly plied tool of the GOP in their campaign to impede
our country President Obama and his agenda has been the filibuster. Since 2010’s rise of the Tea Party, the ability to “block” a final vote on a bill in the Senate has been used over and over again to stymie presidential appointees and key legislation. If you were wondering how the Senate could have 54 votes for the Toomey-Manchin background check bill and still lose, it’s because of the filibuster threat the bill had. Even though the Constitution makes no mention of needing more than a simple majority, Republicans have used just the threat of a filibuster, not even an actual filibuster, to impede the president’s agenda at every turn.
They’re not even doing it in secret; everyone knows what they’ve been up to because they’ve just about shouted it from the rooftops. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has known it all along himself and even pledged adamantly in the past to end the filibuster abuse by changing the Senate rules, provided voters did their part and let the Democrats hold their advantage in last year’s election. Reid though, chickened out, and wound-up making the very same backroom handshake deal that he decried in the months leading up to the filibuster negotiations. He did leave himself a little wiggle room at the time though, using Senate rules to delay finalization on the filibuster changes in case the GOP went back on their word to start scheduling hearings and votes on nominees in good faith.
Again to absolutely no one’s surprise, the Congressional Republicans have continued to behave like spoiled children not getting their way, and have resumed their obstructive ways. This has made Reid step up his own rhetoric, threatening Senate Republicans with the “nuclear” option of calling the suspended filibuster rules vote back in session and then using his simple majority to change the rules of the Senate to no longer allow filibusters on presidential nominees. Which leads us to where we are today, and it appears that Obama is about to test Harry Reid’s resolve to use the nuclear option.
Obama has made three nominations to D.C.’s federal appeals court to fill long standing vacancies. Republicans of course are sacred because Supreme Court justices have been coming out of the D.C. appeals court, so of course they’re waving the “court packing” flag every chance they get. So of course they’re going back on their word to Reid, just as we all predicted they would. Not that predicting the current crop of Republican Senators will act like feckless assholes means we can see the future — it just means they’re consistent.
It’s not just the fact that Obama’s nominations reflect his ideologies that shows he’s willing to push back against Republican intransigence, it’s the fact he’s putting three nominees up at once, and word just came down that Ambassador Susan Rice — the one whose reputation was needlessly besmirched by John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte over Benghazi talking points — will be Obama’s pick for the next National Security Adviser. It would appear that Obama finally learned his lesson from the first debate with Mitt Romney last year, and he’s ready to engage the Republicans directly if needs be. His nominations are a direct message to the GOP that he will not be intimidated, but the real determining factor in this gambit’s failure or success will be the testicular fortitude of Harry Reid.
Obama’s gutsy call to nominate three judges to the D.C. appeals court loses all its teeth if Reid once again backs down. Without the option to simply go around obstructing Republicans by way of changing the filibuster rules, all that will happen is three more Obama nominees will languish awaiting confirmation. We all know what the GOP actually wants to do this summer. They want to take a one-way ticket to Scandaltown and just keep holding hearings until someone, somewhere gives them just the right bit of information they can use to impeach the president himself. It’s short-sighted in the extreme given that the country doesn’t want them focusing on the scandals, and even when the articles of impeachment got out of the House, they’d die in the Democratically-held Senate. There is literally no point to continuing the witch hunts other than to delay the business of actually running our country.
Reid simply has to hold the line. Mitch McConnell and others will how and scream about “intimidation” and all kinds of nonsense. If Reid backs down to their claims of power abuse, then this will be just the latest instance of our Congress letting the country down. Nothing about what Obama is doing in terms of filling vacant seats on the bench is unprecedented. He’s not forcing Justices Scalia or Thomas out, he’s simply seeing a short-staffing and trying to plug the gaps with people he thinks can fill the job. Sure, there’s a good chance they could be considered for Supreme Court spots in the future, but the Republicans just need to get over that fact. They lost the election. Elections do have consequences — one of those being the winner gets to pick his people. It’s been like that for literally centuries. For some reason though, the new guy doesn’t get that treatment.
Makes you wonder what’s so different about him, huh?
When it comes right down to it, all eyes will have to be on Harry Reid. The Nevada Democrat has to dig down deep and do the right thing. The irony of course is that had he actually kept his promise to make the necessary changes to filibuster rules in January, we’d have a background check amendment and Obama would have three seats filled on the D.C. appeals circuit. I have been brutal with Reid in the past, and I will continue to do so until he proves once and for all he’s not just all talk, but can actually finish something he’s set out to do. It’s bad enough dealing with a Republican party not connected with reality, to compound that with a cowardly, gutless Majority Leader is just heartbreaking. I’m choosing to remain optimistic, for now. Reid knows he’s got to help put his party in a good position going into next year’s mid-term elections, and backing down again won’t cut it, not this time.
So the ball’s in your court, Senator Reid, and all eyes are on you. Try not to live up to your reputation this time.