Last winter I had the opportunity to sit down with Senator McCaskill in her office and discuss a wide range of topics, both on the record and off. In that meeting I made it clear at the very beginning of our conversation that I thought the Democrats would be making a huge mistake if they didn’t radically overhaul the filibuster rules that the minority party had abused in the previous session of Congress to launch a coup and sieze control of the chamber and it’s process. My opinion on the filibuster then was the same as it is now: “Kill it. Kill it dead, bury it with a shovel and then bury the shovel,” because it is anti-democratic and used to thwart the will of the people who elected the other party in majority numbers.
I also knew immediately, based on that conversation, that the Democrats were going to blow it. I knew they were going to get rolled. I knew they were going to fold like a cheap lawnchair under Rush Limbaugh and Mitch McConnell would continue to be the de facto leader of the Senate because the Democrats lacked the intestinal fortitude and spinal integrity to do a damned thing about it. I walked out of her office two hours later feeling physically ill, because I knew I was going to be sold out. Again.
You know what else? I. Was. Right.
Because the Democrats were gutless cowards in January, the Senate has reached new depths of dysfunction and ridiculousness.
Congratulations, Democrats. If you rang up a bookie in Vegas and bet on failure, you should be rolling in dough about now.
Let’s look at the state of affairs in the Senate as they exist right now…
The Dodd-Frank banking reform bill created a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The American people overwhelmingly support this and want Elizabeth Warren to head it up, but the republicans find the very idea of an entity that is set up to protect consumers from the predators in the financial industry anathema, and they will not only not approve Elizabeth Warren’s nomination, they won’t approve any nominee until the CFPB itself is gutted and defanged, made into a paper tiger that doesn’t really protect consumers from those poor, put-upon banksters.
McConnell has also decided to gut implementation of the ACA by refusing to allow votes on nominees to the Independent Payment Advisory Board to oversee Medicare spending.
They are also blocking the President’s nominee to replace Gary Locke in the Commerce Secretary position after he was named Ambassador to China.
A vitally important position at the Federal Reserve remains unfilled because the republicans wouldn’t let Nobel laureate Jerod Diamond’s nomination come to the floor for a vote.
The Treasury Department is shot through with vacancies because the republicans…sing it with me now…won’t let nominees come to the floor for a vote.
And don’t even get me started on the backlog of judicial nominees and republican obstruction.
It has gotten so bad that we may be fast approaching a tipping point. Indeed, Jonathan Bernstein argued yesterday in the Washington Post that the Democrats have brooked this foolishness long enough and it’s “long past time” that they “go nuclear.”
It’s time — long past time — for Harry Reid and Senate Democrats to start fighting back against filibusters on executive branch nominations. It’s time to threaten to go nuclear.
If Republicans are determined to abuse Senate rules by using the filibuster to disable federal agencies, then Democrats should threaten to get rid of the filibuster.
GOP obstruction and nihilism are to blame for this, but the Democrats are culpable, too.
Remember, when this session of Congress convened, the Democrats dropped their plans to enact major filibuster reforms, and in return, the GOP would stop abusing the process.
I get bashed from time to time for not being ideologically pure enough and for giving Democrats a pass when other lefties are pissed off because they want them to “fight.” Hey, I am a big fan of bare-knuckle politics myself, but I can count, and if the votes aren’t there the votes aren’t there. Only a moron risks life and limb fighting a battle that has a foredrawn conclusion that goes against them. I prefer to save my energy and fight only the battles I have a strategy for and a chance to win.
This is one of those fights that Harry Reid needs to have, and he needs to win, because we are getting into “existential struggle” territory here. The nihilists are bent on reducing the country to a pile of smoldering rubble, and they don’t much care whether they do it from the minority or the majority position, just so long as they destroy the middle class and the last shred of confidence the American people have in their government.