Republicans in the Senate have drastically increased the use of the filibuster in recent years, and have essentially declared that the president of the United States loses his right to have lower-court judges and other appointees approved and seated if he's a Democrat. Harry Reid and Senate Democrats have responded to this state of affairs by voting to curtail the use of the filibuster, so appointed positions can actually be filled by the president with Senate consent, as the Constitution's Framers intended.
This has led to consequences in the Senate. Whose fault are these consequences? According to a front-page story by Jeremy Peters, they're everybody's -- naturally.
If there is a rock bottom in the frayed relationship between Senate Republicans and Democrats, it seemed uncomfortably close as the final days of 2013 on Capitol Hill degenerated into something like an endurance contest to see who could be the most spiteful.Equal spite? Explain, please.
As the sun rose on Friday, the Senators had worked through a second straight all-night session -- called by Democrats as a way of retaliating for Republicans' delaying tactics on confirmations....Oh, is that why these all-night sessions were called? Purely as a retaliatory measure? Or were they called because...?
Republicans, furious that Democrats last month stripped away most of their power to filibuster presidential nominations, are using every procedural barricade available to them in the Senate's two-century-old rule book, forcing it to run the clock as long as possible while they vote on a series of President Obama’s nominees.So one party -- the Republican Party -- is engaged in delaying tactics to prevent the Senate from doing its work. The other party -- the Democratic Party -- is scheduling all-nighters so that the Senate can actually do some of that work, the work we citizens pay the Senate to do.
Democrats, hoping to make the situation so unpleasant for their colleagues across the aisle that they eventually break, are scheduling votes at all hours of the day and night. Mr. Reid is threatening to refuse to let anyone go home until a backlog of dozens of nominees is gone -- even if that means spending Christmas Eve in the Capitol....
Yeah, that sounds pretty much equivalent.
What members of both parties bemoaned more than anything was not the lack of civility or bipartisan cooperation -- which they seem to have given up on long ago -- but what they said they see as the irreversible damage inflicted on an institution they claim to revere.May I just say something right now to everyone who works in Washington? We don't give a rat's ass about the sacredness of your precious institutions. They are a means to an end -- nothing more. Senators work for us. The Senate is where they do it. That's it. It's the work that matters, not the goddamn institution.
"If Bob Byrd had been here he would have had a stroke," said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, referring to the late Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the senator whom Republicans and Democrats hold up as the embodiment of senatorial dignity and forbearance.
Some senators expressed concern that this moodier, more intemperate Senate would become the norm now that Democrats have unilaterally changed filibuster rules....Not, you will note, because several intemperate Senates, prior to the rule change, unilaterally changed the use of the filibuster:
Republicans complained that instead of tackling the many substantive issues that the Senate should resolve before the end of the year -- whether to impose sanctions on Iran, passing the annual defense authorization bill and settling a long-running dispute over federal subsidies to farmers and food stamps -- lawmakers were wasting their time on midlevel nominations.You know why this is happening now? Even Politico does a better job of providing an answer to that question:
With a deadline looming at the end of the year that requires the president to resubmit all unconfirmed nominees and go through paperwork, background checks and committee hearings all over again, Democrats have decided to forge ahead and get as many nominees through as they can.So all these appointees would -- to put it in ordinary-people terms -- have to return to the back of the line and start the whole process all over again. Democrats are trying to prevent that. It that so irrational? Could the Newspaper of Record possibly have told us that?
Back to the Times story:
Much of [the Senate's] business is accomplished through unanimous consent, which allows senators to move quickly through mundane tasks like approving low-level nominations.Except that that hasn't been happening.
Republicans have held up the votes on dozens of Mr. Obama's pending nominees by refusing to provide unanimous consent to waive the time that is allotted for debate. Instead, they are using the debate time to take to the Senate floor to vent.If you'd never read anything about this issue except this particular New York Times story, you'd think that sort of Republican obstruction began only after Democrats curtailed the filibuster. There isn't a word in this story about why there's a huge backlog of appointees.
Senator Angus King, a first-term independent from Maine who usually votes with Democrats, brought his toothbrush and a change of clothes on Wednesday. He said he had an uncomfortable night on a couch that was about eight inches too short. And when he rolled over in the morning, he set off the motion sensor that turned on his office lights.You don't understand it, Senator? You don't understand how it came to this?
The experience drove home for Mr. King a stark realization: This is no way to run the Senate. "It's not a very constructive use of time," he said. "I don't fully understand it."
Maybe it's because you get your news from the mainstream press.