Blogs » Politcs Plus » The Pros and Cons of Invoking the Nuclear Option




This past Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won a procedural vote to kill the minorities’ right to filibuster judicial and executive appointees, otherwise known as the ‘nuclear option.’ The right to filibuster Supreme Court nominees and legislation remained intact.

The GOP will correctly say that President Obama has appointed 215 federal judges and only two have been denied. They will also point out that 1,700 of his appointees been approved and only four have not. That looks pretty impressive until you look at the chart I submitted and see where the trend has been going. It’s the job of the Senate to advise and consent but that role has been abused lately. Sen. Lindsey Graham recently went on TV and said he would hold up all of Obama nominees until he gets to talk to the witnesses of the Benghazi incident. I’ve always thought that it’s ridiculous that a lone senator could have so much power. It all came to a boil when three consecutive federal nominees to the appellate court in DC were filibustered without a good reason. Senator Grassley said that Pres. Obama was trying to pack the court because those judges were not needed. President Obama has a constitutional duty to fill those vacancies.

Yes, the pot was already boiling because in all of our glorious history, only 168 of the executive branches’ nominees have been filibustered. President Obama has had 82 of his nominees filibustered. One of his nominees for a federal judgeship was held up for eighteen months but then on March of this year he was approved 91-0.

It was inevitable that both sides would spin the results of the 52-48 victory for the majority. Fox News showed clips of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton saying of how bad it would be to invoke the nuclear option, when they were in the minority. At MSNBC clips were shown of Mitch McConnell and others justifying the action when they were in power.

Mitch McConnell said the Democrats would regret the day they passed the nuclear option. That could happen, if GOP takes back the Senate in 2014. There’s no doubt that they would try to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with 51 votes. That’s not a given because if ACA is working the American people will have none of that. They could also pass legislation that would require a 67 vote in order to raise taxes. There’s nothing to keep the majority party from eliminating the filibuster and run rough shod over the minority, as we see in some GOP controlled states.

I bet there are many reasonable Republicans who are glad that the nuclear option was invoked but they won’t say it in public. They are like the three Democrats who voted against the nuclear option; they were elected to govern and not play parliamentary games.

Today, there are 390 federal judges appointed by the Democrats and 390 repointed by Republican presidents. President Obama will appoint three new appellant judges and that will tilt it to 393 for the Democrats. That’s what the real fight is about, because there are still 93 federal judgeships to be filled. That being said, the Senate can concentrate on passing a jobs bill and increasing the minimum wage or spend all their time approving federal judges. Those who said President Obama would be weak during the upcoming budget have to regroup and come up with a different approach since shutdown is out of the picture and the filibuster of appointees is also off the table.