Principles matter naught in all out nuclear option

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid said today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he is tired of fighting filibusters blocking presidential nominees.

“The changes we’re making are very, very minimal. What we’re doing is saying: ‘Look American people, shouldn’t President Obama have somebody working for him that he wants?’” Reid said. “If you want to look at nominations, you know what the Founding Fathers said: ‘Simple majority.’ That’s what we need to do.”

Reid signaled that he is prepared to put an end to the centuries old Senate tradition of the filibuster by exercising what is being called the nuclear option. This would allow 51 senators to change the Senate rules instead of the 67 that are normally required.

This is the same Harry Reid who in 2003 weaponized boredom by filibustering a Bush judicial nominee for eight and half hours, often reading from his book about Searchlight, and in 2005 said on the Senate floor, while arguing against the nuclear option:

“For 200 years, we’ve had the right to extended debate. It’s not some “procedural gimmick.” It’s within the vision of the Founding Fathers of our country. They established a government so that no one person – and no single party – could have total control.

“Some in this Chamber want to throw out 217 years of Senate history in the quest for absolute power.

“They want to do away with Mr. Smith coming to Washington. They want to do away with the filibuster. They think they are wiser than our Founding Fathers.”

This was about the same time Obama was arguing:

“If the right of free and open debate is taken away from the minority party, and the millions of Americans who asked us to be their voice, I fear that the already partisan atmosphere in Washington will be poisoned to the point where no one will be able to agree on anything. That doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests, and it certainly isn’t what the patriots who founded this democracy had in mind. We owe the people who sent us here more than that – we owe them much more.”

Principles matter only when you are losing the argument. The GOP never pushed the button on the nuclear option.

40 comments on “Principles matter naught in all out nuclear option

  1. Vernon Clayson says:

    Small correction, Mr. Mitchell, the word “principles” should never be contained in any reference to Harry Reid, nor, for that matter, any other member of the senate or house of representatives. All, including members of both parties, have relegated themselves to insignificance from their original purpose, it’s not be accident, it’s by design. They are still fat cats but long since declawed.

  2. I stand corrected, Mr. Clayson.

  3. Nyp says:

    What was the R-J’s editorial position on this issue back in 2003-06?

  4. The R-J has so screwed up its archives, I can’t find anything, but I don’t recall ever favoring the ending of the filibuster.

  5. But the Sun is for whatever Harry is for at the moment: https://4thst8.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/rules-of-the-game-democrats-dont-need-no-stinking-rules-says-sun-editor/

    Also see today’s Greenspun column, if you can decipher it. I can’t.

  6. Nyp says:

    You guys took no position when every conservative news outlet in the country was screaming in favor of ending filibusters??

    Hard to believe.

  7. Steve says:

    Nyp, its actually not so hard to believe.
    Back then Harry was a Democrat from Nevada. He used to make Republicans in other states appear downright right wing conservative. Harry used to call lots of conservative ideals when he was climbing the DC power ladder.

    Back then I supported Harry Reid and voted for him several times.

    I have stated before and maintain to this day, Harry Reid and many Democrats left me, not the other way around. Liberalism today is not what it used to be.

  8. Steve says:

    Republicans in other states appear downright right wing conservative.

    Correction, that should read
    Republicans in other states appear downright left wing liberal.

    That’s what I get for editing on the fly 😳

  9. Milty says:

    “Harry used to call lots of conservative ideals when he was climbing the DC power ladder.”

    Washoe County has gradually been shifting from a red county to a purplish-bluish county, but back in the 1990s it was still considered red. I can recall a lot of times during that decade when Senator Reid or Senator Bryan would be interviewed on KKOH radio in Reno. Afterwards, a lot of people would call in wondering when they were going to make the announcement that they were switching parties. I always chuckled about these calls because I thought it was pretty obvious that they were tailoring their responses to the Washoe county and the rural county audience, but even in Clark County the two senators had a more moderate to conservative message. Steve’s right, Senator Reid definitely was a lot more conservative 20 years ago than he is today.

  10. Steve says:

    Its better than that Milty.
    I remember Sen. Reid sitting in the tiny little TV shack of UHF LP19 known as Tootlevision.
    Back then locals were picking up that station by antenna only, the cable company simply refused to re broadcast it as law did not force them.
    Ch 19 was attracting lots of locals who had previously not been involved in politics and once it was discovered by Reid he made certain to appear. When he figured out the people being united were almost exclusively conservatives the station quietly faded away and Harry Tootle sold it to a religious broadcaster.
    Harry Tootle has since faded away and Harry Reid has shifted way way left.

    Here is some of remains from that station:

    http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Harry-Tootle/416877651

  11. I said I can’t find an editorial on the topic because the archives are broken.

  12. Milty says:

    It’s kind of funny that Senator Reid wants to amend the filibuster rules to force votes, but when a group of people actually votes for something, he won’t accept their decision and says, “This isn’t over with and I think that’s good.”

  13. LEL says:

    Senator Reid, since becoming majority leader, has fallen prey to Lord Acton’s observation from some time ago, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But being a native Nevadan for almost eight decades, it’s obvious to me that the seeds existed years before.

  14. nyp says:

    So when Republicans have 52 votes in the Senate and the Democrats fillibuster President Palin’s cabinet nominees in order to force the majority to change laws they don’t like, or to extract other policy concessions, do you promise to oppose proposals to end such fillibuster practices?

  15. Rincon says:

    According to this week’s Time magazine, Both Reid and Mitch Mcconnell flip-flopped on the filibuster. A politician is a politician. They’re just like sports fans.

  16. Rincon says:

    A question occurs to me as well: Is the filibuster in the Constitution or merely a rule or tradition?

  17. Steve says:

    “President Palin” WooHoo! an endorsement! Welcome to reality, Nyp!

    :mrgreen:

  18. Each house sets own rules.

  19. Rincon says:

    I presume the original intent of the founding fathers was for both houses to rule by majority vote. In addition, the history of the Senate suggests majority rule as well. Ruling by primarily 3/5 majority is a very recent phenomenon. This means that the modern use of the filibuster represents a commandeering of a rules loophole in order for the minority party to frustrate the intent of the founding fathers.

  20. Milty says:

    If they want to reform the filibuster rules, they should just go back to the previous requirement that filibusters be real, i.e., someone gets up there and speaks for hours on end. Get rid of the virtual filibusters and the two track system of legislation in the Senate. If there’s a filibuster, all other Senate business comes to a screeching halt until the filibuster is resolved.

    Of course, this would require those lazy asses in the Senate to actually do some work for their salaries.

  21. nyp says:

    Sounds like a good idea to me.

  22. A recent phenomenon?

    To quote Harry Reid from 2005:

    “The first filibuster in the U.S. Congress happened in 1790. It was used by lawmakers from Virginia and South Carolina who were trying to prevent Philadelphia from hosting the first Congress.

    “Since 1790, the filibuster has been employed hundreds and hundreds of times. Senators have used it to stand up to popular presidents. To block legislation. And yes – even to stall executive nominees.

    “The roots of the filibuster can be found in the Constitution and in the Senate rules.

    “In establishing each House of Congress, Article I Section 5 of the Constitution states that ‘Each House may determine the rules.’”

  23. nyp says:

    Yup, there is a long tradition of fillibustering. But there is no tradition of habitual use of the fillibuster for the express purpose of hobbling the functions of an executive branch controlled by another political party. That is what is happening today.

    From the time of Eisenhower to that of President Ford, zero executive nominees were filibustered. Only two nominees were filibustered during Reagen’s two terms, none during Bush I. Nine nominees were filibustered during Clinton’s eight years, seven during Bush II’s two terms. But the Republicans have already fillibustered Obama’s nominees sixteen times, and are on track to do so a total of 28 times. And the overwhelming majority of the filibusters have nothing whatsoever to do with any objection to the nominee’s qualifications. It is simply for the purpose either of crippling the President or of holding the proper functioning of government hostage to the Republican’s policy goals.

  24. nyp says:

    Put it this way: during the entire time when Lyndon Johnson was Majority Leader he had to deal with a total of one filibuster. In contrast, during Reid’s tenure the Republicans have filibustered 420 times.

  25. Johnson was a better compromiser.

  26. Steve says:

    Perhaps the trouble is the Senate Majority leader…filling the tree…refusing to bring bills up for debate…etc…

  27. nyp says:

    compromising on the selection of cabinet nominees??

  28. Milty says:

    “Perhaps the trouble is the Senate Majority leader…”

    Just from reading the two most recent volumes of Caro’s biography of LBJ, I think we can all agree that Harry Reid is no Lyndon Johnson.

  29. nyp says:

    I suppose I agree with that as well. Great biographies, by the way.

  30. Still can’t find a specific editorial to illustrate, but, if I recall correctly, the paper generally agreed a president of either party should be entitled to an up or down vote on nominations. But we did point out some filibuster travesties perpetrated by Democrats against highly qualified nominees. And we said, if a filibuster is to be used, it should be a real stand-up-and-talk one that shuts down everything until …

  31. Steve says:

    http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=LVRB&p_theme=lvrb&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_text_search-0=filibuster&s_dispstring=filibuster%20AND%20date(1/1/2003%20to%201/1/2006)&p_field_date-0=YMD_date&p_params_date-0=date:B,E&p_text_date-0=1/1/2003%20to%201/1/2006)&p_perpage=10&p_sort=_rank_:D&xcal_ranksort=4&xcal_useweights=yes

    An Archive search I performed. There are 126 articles that match the search. I cannot buy each article to check what Nyp was asking about. Perhaps someone with higher access than myself could find what is being sought.

  32. Rincon says:

    Thomas ignores the fact that use of the filibuster has escalated over the past decade or more and has been wielded by both parties. I presume Thomas believes that during the Bush years, every single filibuster by the Democrats was some kind of unconstitutional maneuver in an attempt to destroy the country. His view is especially questionable when the Republicans have a large Tea Partier contingent that proudly proclaims their unwillingness to compromise on just about everything. As soon as one thinks his team is perfect and the other is Satanic, reason goes out the window. Rabid partisanship eats away at the fiber of Democracy.

  33. Milty says:

    So does Rincon believe that 41 of the 46 Republicans in the Senate are Tea Partiers (the number required to sustain a filibuster)?

  34. Rincon says:

    The Tea Partiers are only one part of a complex dynamic, but they are the most obvious. Legislators don’t have to be Tea Partiers to be heavily influenced by them. Every moderate Republican, if there are any left, knows that if they step out of line, not only do they raise the ire of the Republican leadership, but they are likely to be targeted by the Tea Partiers in the primaries. By targeting only a few moderates at each election, the Tea Partiers threaten all of them. This gives them outsized influence. Their coffers are substantial and their propoganda is enticing. And as I said, they eschew compromise as does the rest of the Party.

    Goldwater said that extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Enticing propoganda, but any anarchist could say the exact same thing. Without compromise, Democracy eventually dies. This means that extremism without compromise is indeed a vice.

  35. Milty says:

    So would Rincon have been completely supportive of the 3/5 compromise at the Constitutional Convention?

  36. Don’t put words in my mouth, Rincon. I never said any of that.

  37. Rincon says:

    Didn’t mean to, Thomas. As I said, I presumed. I think most would agree that assigning 100% of the blame to either party in this ludicrous parody of legislating would be extreme. Your statement that Johnson was a better compromiser suggests that you blame Reid and the Democrats.

    I assume by the the 3/5 compromise, you refer to the compromise counting slaves as 3/5 of a person. Let me turn the question back to you. Would you have opposed the compromise if failure to ratify the Constitution was the end result of your opposition?

  38. Milty says:

    So when the president of Emory University was criticized earlier this year for comments he made in the university’s alumni magazine defending compromise and citing the 3/5 compromise as an example, was Rincon on the side of the critics or on the side of the Emory University president?

  39. Rincon says:

    Is it better for a slave to have 3/5 representation or zero? There was no likely option for full representation.

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