It now looks as if we’re going to get not one, but two, new GOP filibusters of executive branch nominees. Multiple Republicans are planning to filibuster against the new Secretary of Labor pick Thomas Perez; Chuck Grassley just joined in this effort today. Meanwhile, it has emerged that Roy Blunt is putting a hold on Gina McCarthy, Obama’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
Kevin Drum comments:
Let’s take a look at the body count of high-profile Obama nominees so far: Susan Rice, Chuck Hagel, John Brennan, Jack Lew, Caitlin Halligan, Thomas Perez, and now Gina McCarthy. Plus maybe some others that I’ve already forgotten.
And now for the list of high-profile nominees who haven’t been blocked or filibustered: John Kerry.
One of the consequences of this maximum obstruction plan by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans is that is renders even perfectly reasonable actions by Republican Senators highly suspicious. Blunt’s hold on McCarthy is over a local issue in Missouri, something about levees on the Mississippi. But it’s impossible to know whether that’s something that Blunt is perfectly willing to negotiate with the relevant agencies, or if it’s just a cover for GOP opposition to yet another Obama nomination for the sake of opposition itself.
The big picture here is that by setting the bar at 60 for every single nomination — something that was never done until January 2009 — Senate Republicans are in effect filibustering every single nomination.
Two points about this.
One is that the press should keep in mind constantly just how radical the GOP’s filibuster-everyone policy is. Treating this level of obstruction as normal misses an incredibly important story about how the government works — or, rather, how it isn’t working.
And the second is that Harry Reid and the Democrats need to make clear that they are willing, if necessary, to change Senate rules in order to prevent this kind of dysfunctional obstruction from continuing.
There’s no good reason at all to require a supermajority for confirmation of executive branch nominations. Simple majority cloture would allow minority party protests and permit individual Senators and small groups of Senators to look out for narrow state interests, while also allowing the government to function. The Democrats have both the White House and a comfortable majority in the Senate; there’s no reason at all for confirmation of executive branch nominations to be this difficult.
Harry Reid should be threatening party-imposed reform — right now. And Democrats should be ready to pull the trigger if unprecedented levels of obstructionism continue. After all, Democrats are supposed to care if the government actually functions. They were elected to make it work. Reid and Senate Democrats should act now, or they’ll be betraying everyone that voted for them and for President Obama’s agenda.