Thursday, November 21, 2013

A new precedent was not established in the U.S.Senate today

Today the U.S. Senate majority changed the Senate rules to ban filibusters for presidential appointments (apart from Supreme Court nominations).

Sounds radical, and the Democrats who support this had mostly spoken out in defense of the filibuster eight years ago.

Also, the Senate has never changed its rules mid-session.

But it's the Republicans who actually changed the rules at the start of President Obama's presidency. Not the way the rules are written. Instead they changed the traditional way the filibuster has been used--that is, to block the appointment of a presidential appointee you believe isn't qualified for the post.

Instead the Republican leadership decided to use the mechanism of the filibuster to try to nullify the results of the presidential election. The Senate's rules protect the rights of the minority party. They were not intended to permit the minority party to rule the country as if it had won the election.

The Constitution obviously intends for presidential appointments to be confirmed or denied by 51% or more of the Senate. Not 60%. The Republicans' abuse of the rules--unlike how either Democrats or Republicans had applied them before President Clinton was elected, and in spades since President Obama was elected--that abuse gave a minority of less than 50% of the Senate a veto not only over presidential appointments but over letting agencies function whose leadership appointments are being blocked.

And now they're also using the filibuster to block nominations over unrelated issues, just because their veto power gives them a lever.

This amounts to trying to run America as if they'd won the last two presidential elections.

Which is not just intolerable--it's also the unprecedented change made in the how the Senate works by the Republicans five years ago, which the Democratic leadership has now finally recognized...and dealt with.

You can be sure the Republicans will abuse their majority status if they win control of the Senate again, just as they've been abusing their minority status. They will wield today's rules change ruthlessly. But there's no guarantee they wouldn't do that anyway--especially given their behavior during the past half-decade.

But even more importantly, if the Senate majority hadn't done what they did today they would simply be continuing to cede control-- a systematic, aggressive control--of the United States Senate by the side that lost the last election. They lost the House, except their gerrymandering and voter suppression gave them a House majority. They lost the Senate and the presidential race outright.

And today their determination to practice minority rule was thwarted in one major area.

One trait the Republican leadership has shown consistently is the belief that Democrats are weak, Republicans are strong. So Republicans can push the Democrats around with impunity because they have a monopoly on manly toughness.

The Imperial Japanese high command made the same mistake about their enemy in 1942.