THE FILIBUSTER AND THE USE OF THE NUCLEAR OPTION

This week in politics in America, saw a victory for Majority Rule. 

Throughout our history, the filibuster has rarely been used but in the last year the Senate has experienced a filibuster a day. Most Presidency’s have never had to deal with a single filibuster. The intent of a filibuster was to protect the rights of the minority. We have not seen a political issue this year that captured our attention that merited the use of the filibuster to protect the rights of the minority. But what we have seen is the use of the filibuster to obstruct and deny the President of the United States from having his nominees for positions in the executive branch and our court system from having an up or down vote. What we have seen is a tyranny of the minority that has made our government dysfunctional. This obstructionism has nothing to do with advice and consent but rather pure politics and partisanship. Every President has had pretty much a free ride on his appointments except when information has come to the public’s attention that puts into question whether or not the nominee is qualified.

The failure to vote on judicial nominations has had a negative affect on the federal court system, increasing the workload of current judges and it has put at risk whether or not the Judiciary can do its job with so many current openings.

Nominees have put their lives on hold. It makes it more and more difficult to find good people willing to put their lives through a gold-fish bowl in order to serve in their appointed position.

For the first time in 100 years a sitting Congressman from North Carolina has seen his nomination put on hold for no good reason other than to paralyze government.

Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, led the effort  to change the rules of the United States Senate by no longer allowing a filibuster for executive and judicial nominees with the exception of Supreme Court nominees. 

There are several potential negative impacts as a result of the use of the nuclear option regarding judicial nominations. The exception regarding Supreme Court nominations will encourage the political party not in power to filibuster to death any nominee.

Our system of government already has enough checks and balances. Our founders did not require a super majority to pass legislation nor to affirm or deny a President’s nominations for the executive branch. The continued use of the filibuster for the purpose of obstructing government was not part of the bargain when the Constitution was ratified and it would be wrong to continue using the filibuster in such a cavalier way.

Another potential negative for ending the filibuster in the situations that the rule change covers leaves open, two possibilities, one being the possibility that all filibusters may be forbidden. That would truly be a shame because the true original purpose of the filibuster to protect the rights of the minority would be denied.

The other potential consequence is that this will only encourage more partisan rancor and more dysfunctional government. But it is hard to imagine the excessive partisanship that we have had getting worse.

Just as a reminder, neither political party of recent history comes into this discussion and issue with clean hands. It was the Democrats who started this ridiculous practice of challenging judicial appointments. Unless it can be shown that the judicial appointee has credibility issues we should return to the historic pattern of voting on the President’s choice.

There have been examples of the President Obama’s nominees being unanimously affirmed once the process was allowed to go to its conclusion.

Perhaps the inevitable conclusion to this strange bit of dysfunctional government is that it will help usher in a vote to end all filibusters.

It makes sense to allow filibusters if you guarantee a vote on the nominee or a legislative measure. Having a good and honest debate is a healthy democratic exercise, but to merely obstruct is harmful to the democratic process. Democracy is not served by the obstructionism we have had, it is unprecedented, wrong and harmful to the country. We need a return to the bipartisanship of the past, when the nation and the people’s interests came first.

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