Sunday, January 27, 2013

No recess appointments make filibuster worse

By Frank Moraes

Tired of hating on Harry Reid? Then click away, because I have something all new to bitch about. On Friday, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit came down with a sweeping interpretation of the Constitution that will basically end recess appointments. These are temporary appointments that the president makes when the Senate is in recess. Now, I'm no great fan of these, except right now when the Republicans are so committed to obstruction that they wouldn't approve the nomination for dog catcher.

When I first started thinking about the filibuster, I thought, "Why kill it now? After all, the House is still in Republican hands. There isn't much that is going to get done anyway!" I thought that for about a nanosecond. Then I realized: presidential nominations! Obama has hardly been radical in his appointments. Consider, for example, Mary Jo White to head SEC. About the most outrageous choice was Elizabeth Warren. But she wasn't even chosen. That was just too controversial a nomination, so now that "radical" Warren is a lowly United States senator.

Yet the Republicans have blocked all kinds of minor and uncontrovertial nominations. Why? For the same reason a dog licks its balls. And this is why we needed real filibuster reform. The fact that Obama will likely not be able to make any more recess appointments makes Harry Reid's newest "handshake agreement" all that much worse.

But like I keep telling everyone: don't worry! In two years, the Republicans will probably control the Senate. And then we can finally get some filibuster reform! Just in time for President Marco Rubio! 

Update 

Jonathan Bernstein says more or less the same thing that I did

If there's a fight during this Congress, it's going to be on nominations; Democrats don't really care much about Senate filibusters on legislation because anything that can get through the GOP-controlled House will be able to get 60 votes in the Senate in any case. But on nominations, the minority in the Senate can block them. And if recess appointments are really gone (again, pending whatever the Supreme Court decides), then the main weapon Democrats have remaining is the threat of changing the rules.

But he is less hopeless. He uses this fact to encourage Reid to hold on to filibuster reform to keep the Republicans in order. He also links to an article he wrote back in December that explains the various ways that the filibuster can be reformed at any time

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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