The media has called today's Senate vote the nuclear option. The reason for the moniker is a bit murky. It isn't like we actually dropped a big ol' bomb on someone. There was no mass loss of life. In fact there was no loss of life at all. Neither was there any physical damage to a city, or plague of radiation spreading death and disease like some creeping green amorphous avenging angel.
It was, in reality, nothing more than a simple rule change. You know--like offensive holding in American football used to be a fifteen yard penalty, but now is only ten.
Here was, until today, the situation. The president of these United States got to nominate people to become federal judges, cabinet secretaries, ambassadors and so on. Those persons could not, however, hold office until they were confirmed by the Senate. To be confirmed, a majority of Senators had to vote in their favor--but not just any majority. It took what is sometimes called a super majority. In other words even though there are 100 Senators and a majority of that number in any other part of the real world is 51, during the confirmation process the figure magically rose to 60. This is, what I like to describe as, minority rule. What else would you call it when four tenths of the voters, plus one, control what six tenths of the others, minus one, want?
In theory it was meant to make sure nominees, especially those proposed to a seat on the federal bench, where it is a life time appointment, would be required to meet a higher standard.
Unfortunately, for the past four plus years, the GOP hasn't been interested in who gets nominated. They have been far more concerned with who did the nominating. And, if it was the tall, thin, black guy sitting in the oval office, well then fuck him and the nominee.
Today, tired of what has become just another avenue for republicans to thwart anything and everything Barack Obama thinks is good for the country, 52 Senators voted to throw out the super majority rule. Now it will take 51 yes votes, a true mathematical majority, like we learned in elementary school, to enable the Senate to fill a judicial void--that one which has been probably been sitting open for two years and would remain that way for another three, so long as Mitch McConnell and his gang of cut throats are running loose in the upper chamber.
NBC News quoted New York Senator, Chuck Schumer as saying, "The age old rules of the Senate are being used to paralyze us. The public is asking, begging, us to act."
Obama took to the air and said of the 60 vote threshold, "It is no longer used in a responsible way to govern. It is rather used as a reckless and relentless tool to grind all business to a stop. That is not what our founders intended."
Predictably, Mitch McConnell called the vote, "a power grab." He also warned darkly, "You may regret this sooner than you think."
As my kids used to say, "whatever."
Obviously, there is no doubt, somewhere down the road, the GOP will regain control of the Senate and, no matter how loud they screech now, they'll gleefully exploit this change in procedure. We'll meet that train when it rolls in. Right now there is a huge log jam of nominees and jobs which are vacant. Finally, Obama can do his job and fill them.
NBC noted the rule change will not effect Supreme Court nominations. So yes, Mitch, can still gum up the works if the president has to fill a seat there.
The cold truth is the two hundred year old rule would have never been changed had the tea party hacks, the hard right edge of the GOP, actually looked at each nominee and judged them by their merits and intellects, not by who put their name in play. They refused to do so time and time again because of their pathological hatred of Obama and abject fear of media demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly.
Hey guys, call us back when you realize what being a U.S. Senator really means. Trust me, the democrats will talk to you about traditions and rules then.
It has turned dark and cold here on the southern plains. A bitter wind is blowing out of the north and fast moving curtains of drizzle are whipping across the streets.
Luckily, at least 52 people in this country have seen the light and realized running the government is more than just putting on a spiffy blue suit and saying no to everything. Indeed--sometimes the majority does actually have the guts to rule. How refreshing it is.
It's time for a cocktail.
Say good night, Gracie.