Yesterday morning, the all too familiar rumblings on Capital Hill threats of the so-called “nuclear option” on Senate filibuster reform were swirling again. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was going to finally push the button. For real this time, they said.
I, and presumably Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who even filibusters himself, fully expected that another lopsided deal in favor of the Republicans would be negotiated at the last minute as we’ve all come to expect.
Boy, were we wrong. Sen. Harry Reid had finally had enough.
During his speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Reid outlined the following reasons that led him to finally pull the trigger:
In the history of the Republic, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations. Half of them have occurred during the Obama Administration – during the last four and a half years.
Despite being a former Republican Senator and a decorated war hero, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s nomination was pending in the Senate for a record 34 days, more than three times the previous average. Remember, our country was at war.
There are currently 75 executive branch nominees ready to be confirmed by the Senate that have been waiting an average of 140 days for confirmation.
For the first time in history, Senate Republicans also blocked a sitting member of Congress from an Administration position for the first time since 1843.
Only 23 district court nominees have been filibustered in the entire history of this country. Twenty of them were nominated by President Obama.
He concluded by saying: “Today Democrats and Independents are saying enough is enough.” We couldn’t agree more, Sen. Reid.
I hope we will see some changes in the Senate Rules on legislative filibusters soon too. At the very least, Senators should be forced to actually stand and deliver a Mr. Smith-style soliloquy.