Some Facts Regarding the Nuclear Option

As mentioned earlier today, the filibuster became a primary tool against executive branch nominees back when George W. Bush was president. It was during the Bush administration that the threat of the nuclear option first reared its head. Back then, Democrats like Charles Schumer claimed that Republicans were having “a temper tantrum” by threatening the use of the nuclear option, and that if the option were used, it would constitute “a constitutional crisis” that would “evaporate” the “checks and balances which have been at the core of this republic.”

A couple of other Democratic senators spoke out against the nuclear option back then as well. Here’s one:

And here’s another:

How times have changed.

Now, to put my cards out on the table, I supported the nuclear option back when George W. Bush was president, and I continue to think that filibustering executive branch appointees is wrong, if only because of the havoc it wreaks upon the professional and personal lives of those nominated, along with their families. But that doesn’t change the fact that the very people who were passionately making the argument against the nuclear option during the Bush administration–claiming that it would precipitate a constitutional crisis, claiming that it was a power grab, claiming that it went against the intent of the Founders–are the very same people who celebrated its use today.

“But Pejman,” I hear you cry, “by the very same token, the very same people who threatened the use of the nuclear option during the Bush administration are the ones who decried its use today!” True. But those very same people also held back from using the nuclear option when the Gang of 14 agreement was formulated. They might have expected similar forbearance from the same politicians who whined about the threat of the nuclear option during the last administration, but as we learned today, hypocrisy runs rampant in Washington.

“But Pejman,” I hear you cry again,”the filibuster has been used much more against Obama administration nominees!” So? The precedent was started by Senate Democrats during the Bush administration, and it is not as though the filibuster back then was a rare thing. Senate Democrats even tried to filibuster Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court, though thankfully, that went nowhere. So spare me the numbers game; if it weren’t for the actions of Senate Democrats during the last administration, Senate Republicans wouldn’t have had much historical backing for their actions.

And note just how absurd the rules change implemented today is. The filibuster is forbidden for any executive branch appointments except Supreme Court appointments. Why is the Supreme Court excepted? Well, my best response is that Harry Reid is capricious. If you have a better explanation, feel free to provide it, but I strongly doubt that one exists.

There is some question as to whether Republicans would be willing to reinstitute the filibuster rule if and when they regain the majority. I hope they do not. Turnabout would be fair play if Republicans rammed through executive appointments that Democrats would be entirely willing and eager to block but for the rules change that they put into effect today. And if a future Republican president nominates someone for the Supreme Court and that someone is filibustered by Democrats, I hope that a Senate (Republican) majority leader will institute yet another nuclear option that would forbid the use of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, and runs roughshod over the minority’s rights in the Senate. After all, we learned today just how much those rights are valued by the current majority, didn’t we?

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