THE BLOG

Going All Nuclear

11/26/2013 10:41 am 10:41:12 | Updated Jan 26, 2014

I know there was a lot of soul-searching and hand-wringing last week over the Democrats employing the "nuclear option" for dealing with judicial and presidential appointments. Now that the fallout has dissipated across the countryside somewhat, it's easier to step back and see the landscape more clearly. I wish it hadn't happened. But it also seems like it sort of had to. The Republican Party had pretty much broken apart the concept of governing by majority rule, which has long been the cornerstone of... well, pretty much all democracies in history.

One senator, David Vitter (R-LA), he of the hiring prostitutes, was even throwing around words he seemingly didn't understand, like "dictatorial." In reality, what the Democrats did was take a vote and pass a rule change by majority, which is the pretty much the exact opposite of "dictatorial." One may hate what got voted on, but it wasn't even remotely dictatorial. It was democratic, with a small "d."

I also know that Republicans have said that Democrats will come to regret this. And the truth is that they may. I have no doubt that the GOP will use it one day when they're in power in the Senate. But what Republicans have to understand is that if this Nuclear Option hadn't passed, then Democrats would have used against them the unrelenting filibuster the next time Republicans were in a position to do anything. So, the GOP should think twice about being so fast to condemn, and might even find themselves grateful.

Republicans also claim in "outrage" that this vote was a desecration of the history of the Senate. But the reality is that the Senate has changed its rules throughout its history. The concept of cloture, in fact, the votes needed to end a filibuster, isn't something that dates back to the beginning of the nation. It's less than 100 years old, having come into existence in 1917 when Woodrow Wilson wanted to find some way to not have his running World War I as Commander-in-Chief stymied at every turn by filibusters. In fact, if people are all that concerned with tradition, the world "filibuster" isn't even in the Constitution.

The simple shocking statistic is that in the history of the United States, half of the filibusters that have taken place have been during the five years of the Obama Administration. If anything points to abuse of power, that may be it.

But going further, one other statistic may point out the problem Republicans caused by themselves --

On Thursday, shortly after the nuclear option passed that day, Richard Toronto's nomination for a federal judgeship was finally voted on. Mr. Toronto had been nominated a year-and-a-half ago, and Republicans had been blocking it. Yet when at last the vote came to the floor, he passed by a vote of -- are you ready? -- 91--0!!! Not a single Republican voted against him... despite blocking his nomination for 18 months. That means their only issue was not with the nominee, but that they didn't want to pass anything offered by the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

That is no way to run a government. That is no way to run a democracy.

And so it changed.

I wish it didn't have to. But the Republican Party pushed itself over the cliff. If there are ramifications from it in the future, that's life, that's democracy. Some of those ramifications may well be galling, to both sides. And both sides will learn to leave with it. And hopefully prosper.

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Robert J. Elisberg's comic novel, A Christmas Carol 2: The Return of Scrooge, just reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list for Humor/Parody. It is available in paperback or Kindle ebook edition.