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Filibuster Reform – Right Move, Wrong Time

I had mixed feelings about the Senate’s decision to abandon the “no talking” filibuster for executive nominations and most judicial nominations.  According to what I think is the roll call vote, Senator Begich voted in favor of removing the filibuster for nominations and Senator Murkowski voted against.

I’m in full support of the concept. I think that no matter who is President, their nominees deserve an up or down vote.  I honestly believe this will make Presidents and legislative majorities more accountable for their actions. They won’t be able to use “obstruction” as an excuse. As I understand the decision, nominations can still be delayed as long as opponents are willing to actually take to the Senate floor and actually speak against the measure. This is sufficient protection for debate. Eliminating secret holds and the 60 vote supermajority will eliminate nominations as blackmail material. This is all good.

What I’m troubled by, though not enough to call for a reversal is that the rules were changed in mid-stream. There is wide but not universal agreement that it is acceptable to change Senate rules at the beginning of a new Congress. This is supposed to ensure that rules aren’t changed every time the majority party feels its power threatened. The Democrats have opened the door to changing rules whenever it suits the majority party. This is a precedent Republicans will be entitled to use whenever they manage to take over the Senate.

Still, given that about half of ALL blocked presidential nominees have been since 2009, according to Politifact, I’m ok with eliminating the nomination filibuster now.

 

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