Harry Reid and Senate Democrats made waves last week when they detonated the “nuclear option.” Thanks to this change in Senate rules, ending debate on judicial nominees will only require 51 votes instead of the previous 60 votes needed to quash a filibuster.
It should be noted this change does not affect the typical Senate filibuster we have all come to know and love. So Mitch McConnell and company are free to continue to block every piece of legislation brought before the chamber and will likely use the threat of filibuster on legislation as a proxy filibuster for judicial nominees.
Not too long ago this was called the “Constitutional Option” by Rush Limbaugh and the “path to a military state” by the Daily Kos. Unfortunately, Congress has become just another step in getting re-elected, so voting or not voting now has more to do with establishing a Congressman’s partisan credentials than actually accomplishing any legislative victories.
As an example in the debate before the nuclear option was passed Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said “You’ll regret this and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think,” but if this change was so immoral and unconscionable wouldn’t Republicans just take the high ground and stand on the side of righteousness by changing the rules back the first chance they get?
You don’t get to complain about something being borderline illegal or unconstitutional, then threaten retaliation using the same tactic because hey, “they did it first.”
The reality is that if Democrats had blocked this many of President Mitt Romney’s judicial nominees, Republicans would have changed the rules as well.
But this is certainly not the only affront to democracy that this country has experienced recently.
In Michigan, the governor has the power to essentially invalidate local elections by appointing an emergency manager. While the electorate voted down this power, the Republican-led Legislature devised a new EM bill and attached an appropriation that made it impossible for voters to repeal.
Across the country Republican legislatures are making it more difficult to vote by changing polling locations, shortening the voting period and requiring additional documentation. For some the goal is to disenfranchise voters and stack the deck in their favor.
In many southern states the laws for women considering an abortion are slowly eroding women’s rights with many states attempting to force women to endure invasive and unnecessary procedures.
Some 29 states amended their constitution to deny same sex couples the right to marriage.
In New York Hispanic and African American individuals have been subjected to unconstitutionally discriminatory searches of their person.
If concerns over the democratic process or the rights of citizens are the basis for complaints about this parliamentary procedure then there is no shortage of actions Republicans could point to as “nuclear options”.
But if Congress ever wonders why its approval ratings are so low, all they have to do is look at the “sky is falling” hyperbole they use to describe something as mundane as changing the debate rules on judicial nominees from super majority to a simple majority and they will quickly see why few take Congressman seriously anymore.