November 22, 2013

If only. . .

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) leave the Senate floor before the vote to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), right, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The president cared as much about Iran’s nuclear option as he does the Senate’s.

The nuclear option was in place for superbly qualified Republican-nominated judges like Miguel Estrada whom the Democrats filibustered.

The nuclear option had prevented Sen. Barack Obama from blocking the confirmation of John Bolton as United Nations Ambassador in 2005.

The nuclear option had removed fear of a filibuster and allowed Susan Rice to get nominated as secretary of state so then she could have been questioned about Benghazi.

I realize a lot of conservatives and even some conscientious Democrats are very upset that hundreds of years of Senate history has been stripped away by a failing president and a Senate majority leader who has made inaction on legislation (the main work of the Senate) into a fine art. Yes, presidents will now appoint many more ethically challenged, incompetent and extreme nominees. But after each side gets its turn at party-line nominations, the bloom may come off the rose. In the second term of President Scott Walker (or whoever), the Senate may return to the “old” rules.

In any case, it will refocus those on the right who, like Jim DeMint, want 30 “true” conservatives instead of a majority. Maybe electability — always a good criterion for nomination — will rise as a concern. Having that Senate majority just became a whole lot more important.

As with any ill-conceived, rash move to tear up long-established practice there will be unintended consequences. In this case I suspect they will not be limited to the quality of nominees. Here are a few that might pan out over time:

The power of right-wing interest groups to primary incumbents may diminish as the risk of losing seats held even by “squishy” Republicans becomes too great.

Presidential contenders will be pressed to discuss their potential nominees more specifically and face a conflict between appeals to the base and the patina of moderation.

The quality of appellate court judges will vary greatly and the divide between liberal and conservative judges will increase. The potential for many more conflicts between circuits and therefore more Supreme Court cases to resolve the conflicts may increase.

Presidents may be more inclined to go outside the appellate bench for Supreme Court nominees as the lower court judges become more partisan and less respected.

The number of scandals, real and imagined, increase as problematic nominees fill the executive branch. The frequency of judicial  impeachment proceedings may increase.

The danger of overreach increases considerably and therefore incumbents in the White House and Senate become more vulnerable. Incumbents as we know can often be their own worst enemies.

Some or all of these may occur, and many others may pop up. What we do know is that Democrats didn’t bother to think through most of these. They, like the president who leads them, is perpetually focused on the short-term advantage and on feeding red meat to their base. It’s a bad way to run the country. We’ll see how bad it really is as Obama and Reid’s Senate demolition plays out over time.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.