Obstruction: I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

I am so sick of hearing Harry Reid and the progressives bitch and moan about “obstruction” by Senate Republicans. It’s almost as if the Democrats are so embarrassed by their own lie that they don’t have the passion to propagate it any longer. And for all intents and purposes, they don’t have to keep up the slanderous distortion, because they’ve gone nuclear already and used “obstruction” as the impetus for doing so.

Republicans have not engaged in obstruction and Republicans have not abused the filibuster.

Republicans did not start the practice of filibustering judicial and executive nominees; Democrats started it in the early aughts after an infamous retreat in 2001 whereupon Democrats resolved to thwart the Republican agenda by being as intransigent and (dare I say it?) obstructionist as possible. They invented out of whole cloth the practice of delaying judicial nominees (see: Miguel Estrada) and they argued (correctly) in 2005 that the nuclear option would be “the end of the Senate” (Reid) and “prayed” that when they regained the majority they would not be so callous as to invoke the nuclear option (Biden). Hypocrisy barely scratches the surface of the chutzpa and hubris exhibited by Reid and the progressive amen chorus in Democratic and media circles. Profound duplicitous malice is probably a more apt description of Democratic conduct.

It’s been amusing to listen to Republican after Republican take to the Senate floor in the wake of the nuclear option and castigate Democrats for their short-sighted strategy and overall neglect for Senate rules or tradition. Old lions of the chamber like Lamar Alexander and Orrin Hatch have channeled their younger colleagues’ zeal and turned the vitriol to eleven. What has Republicans so pissed off is that the so-called “crisis” that was used as an excuse to blow up Senate rules with a bare majority when a supermajority has always been required is entirely manufactured. It is a complete fabrication to accuse Republicans of deploying “unprecedented” (Reid’s term) levels of obstruction or delaying of nominees. During the Bush presidency, five judicial nominees were blocked or delayed until their nominations were withdrawn or defeated. The total number of judicial nominees blocked during the Obama administration to date? Also five. Last I checked, an equal number of blocked nominees as a result of parliamentary shenanigans by both parties hardly amounts to lopsided misconduct by either party. Concerning the length of delays of nominees held up for further inquiry, Reid and his minions claim that here Republican behavior has been just as dastardly, as they have forced many of Obama’s nominees to wait in limbo for exorbitant lengths of time. But any glance at the data shows that this too is a canard. Again, prior to 2000 no president had ever seen his judicial or executive nominees blocked in the Senate. After Bush won his first election, Democrats fretted over the DC Circuit Court of appeals and were so paranoid that Bush was going to stack the court with conservative jurists that they deigned to subject each nominee to interminable delays and blocks. Furthermore, Democrats used the identical argument when they were in the minority as Republicans are now making: that the DC Circuit is under-worked and in no need of additional judges when there are appeals courts throughout the country who do need judicial appointments. Both parties made this exact same argument when confronted with a bullying majority looking to break the rules of the Senate; the difference is that Republicans walked back from the ledge in 2005 while Democrats in 2013 did not.

Why are Democrats so concerned with packing the DC Circuit when there are other courts in the country in need of judges? Two reasons: the DC Circuit is the principle arbiter of our regulatory regime and is also the prime vehicle through which judges ascend to the Supreme Court. Having suffered through a year that Dante would anoint as its own circle of Hell, progressives have become desperate and have adopted a bunker mentality in the face of Obamacare’s epic political maelstrom. Rather than wake up to reality and look for a sensible way out, they have dug in their heels and insisted that Obamacare is fine and there is nothing to see here. Their actions in the Senate however, betray the true aim of implementing the progressive agenda via a legislative end-around. Since the inception of Obamacare caused them to lose the House for what looks to be a long while, progressives have trained their focus on the the judiciary and the executive. The administration will continue to rule by fiat and through its Brobdingnagian bureaucracy will blanket the land with byzantine rules and restrictions. The populace will howl, but the lawsuits will be mere trifles as they die in the DC Circuit and Regulation Nation is allowed to proceed apace.

None of the reasons given for Harry Reid’s reckless decision to pull the nuclear trigger are valid. The sole, cynical reason for nuking the Senate and turning it into a rowdy incarnation of the majoritarian House of Representatives was frustration. The left has been through the ringer in 2013 with a litany of scandals, the surveillance state exposed, an embarrassing and indecisive foreign policy and, of course, the piece de la resistance, Obamacare. Frustration at their own failures combined with a petulant impatience over nominees is the only reason they blew up the filibuster. They couldn’t get their way, so they threw a fit and wrecked the world’s most deliberative body for no apparent reason in the process. Good job guys.

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