MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
To paraphrase the patron saint of the GOP, Ronald Reagan (whose autobiography was presciently titled, "Where's the rest of me?"), "There he goes again."
The "he" in this case is perennial "speak loudly and never follow-up on threats" Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
In what is likely the most repeated headline on the Internet and in newspapers, Harry Reid is again threatening to end the 60-vote filibuster that the Republicans have used to bollix up Senate business longer than Methusaleh could remember. In fact, they don't even bother voting; they just threaten to filibuster and Reid pulls the bills or nominations whenever Mitch McConnell rears his turtle neck and burps that he is offended by a piece of legislation.
What can you expect from Democratic Majority leaders? We were reviewing old BuzzFlash print outs and there was an interview with Tom Daschle during the period before John Ashcroft was confirmed as attorney general. Daschle was asked how the Democratic caucus would vote and his reponse was that he didn't know because he lets his caucus members decide their own votes. It is worthy of note tha a new gossipy book on DC, "This Town," apparently reveals that Reid calls Democratic senators who win election or re-election to congratulate them because "they need the love."
Meanwhile Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have a whip ready to strike anybody who strays from the party line (although it's a little more complicated on some votes for Boehner with the occasional Tea Party/pragmatic GOP split).
So reading the Huffington Post headline on July 9, "Harry Reid Tees Up Potential Filibuster Rule Fight," was "deja vu all over again." Reid is going to have a chat with his caucus on July 11, but he isn't apparently even considering a full rollback of the obstructionist, destructive use of the filibuster by the GOP. According to the Huffington Post,
Democratic sources confirmed a New York Times report that leaders are weighing a change that would end filibusters on presidential picks for administrative posts, but not for judgeships. It's a plan that appears to have been in the works for some time. HuffPost reported in May that Democrats were gearing up for a fight around Cordray's job this month.
That would be tremendous if Reid actually proceeded with getting nominations through for government leadership positions that used to be generally non-controversial Senate votes, but have become a strategic tool of the GOP to prevent the government from effectively functioning.
However, the Republican refusal to confirm all but a few federal judges, particularly leaving the immensely powerful DC federal appeals court in Republican hands by refusing to confirm Obama-appointed judges to that court, is allowing the US to become a government in which the federal judiciary in many ways now supercedes the other two branches of government in legislating Republican positions from the bench. This was the case most recently in the Supreme Court Ruling nixing Section Four of the Voting Rights Act because, as Antonin Scalia said in oral arguments, Congress is too political to be trusted with such decisions.
In a 2003 BuzzFlash interview with Nan Aaron, president of the Alliance for Justice in DC, she warned:
Yes, the Republicans have long recognized the critical importance of selecting extremist judges at the federal appellate court level. The appellate courts, made up of fewer than 200 hundred judges, issue tens of thousands of decisions every year. In contrast, the Supreme Court hands down only about 80 opinions a year. That means that the federal appellate courts are the courts of last resort for more than 99 percent of the cases coming before them. For the last 20-some years, Republicans have recognized - until very recently, far more than Democrats - the enormous influence that federal appellate judges have in defining the law in this country and the importance of the judicial appointment power to a presidential legacy.
Thus, according to the New York Times, Harry "Hamlet" Reid is not even considering ending the filibuster of Obama federal judiciary nominations.
Earlier this year, a three-judge panel headed by Richard Posner (Seventh Circuit US Court of Appeals in Chicago) ruled that the State of Illinois -- the last state in the union not to allow the carrying of concealed handguns -- must pass a law by this summer: a court ordered a state legislature to allow people to carry handguns. If this is not legislating from the bench, what is?
Just yesterday, despite the veto of the Democratic governor (Pat Quinn), the Illinois House and Senate enacted a carry-concealed law through a veto override.
Will this be our future?
In addition to held-up judicial nominations, Reid's idle threats about ending the filibuster have also allowed the GOP Senate minority (which in population only represents about a third of the nation) to threaten the filibuster of important legislation to the nation, which, as we have noted, Reid pulls from consideration in order not to hold up Senate business based, again, on the mere threat of a filibuster.
You can only blame the Republicans so much for our nation's ills if the leader of the opposition party can't locate his cojones.
Reid's longstanding threat to repeal the filibuster, to "go nuclear" as the mainstream media likes to call it, without acting to make it happen is harmful to the nation.
The Democrats aren't going to accomplish much if they continue to voice big threats followed by hand-wringing weakness.