Ed­i­to­ri­als: Re­turn of the wheel

Harry Reid’s ‘nu­clear op­tion’ warms no Demo­cratic hearts now

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY -

The wheel that goes around comes around, and the fancy foot­work of a boxer is re­quired to avoid get­ting run over. Harry Reid, a one­time boxer who was then the leader of a Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, thought he had the foot­work three years ago to risk re­peal­ing the Se­nate’s fil­i­buster rule, which re­quired 60 votes to sus­pend de­bate and vote on pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tions to high fed­eral of­fice. A new rule re­quires only a sim­ple ma­jor­ity, or 51 votes.

Mr. Reid’s change en­abled Pres­i­dent Obama and the Democrats to push to con­fir­ma­tion three very lib­eral nom­i­nees to the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the District of Columbia, which is al­most as im­por­tant as the U.S. Supreme Court.

All but three of the 55 Democrats voted for the change. None of the 45 Repub­li­cans did, be­cause at the time the old rule was the only way they could block Pres­i­dent Obama from pack­ing U.S. district and ap­pel­late courts with lib­eral ide­o­logues, as well as nom­i­nees to Cabi­net and ex­ec­u­tive-branch jobs re­quir­ing Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion. The 60-vote re­quire­ment was left in place for nom­i­na­tions to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Reid and his lead­er­ship team held a vic­tory party af­ter the vote with lib­eral ac­tivists and lob­by­ists in a room just off the Se­nate floor. It was an oc­ca­sion for mirth and cham­pagne. Now the party po­si­tions are re­versed, and Mr. Reid, re­tir­ing from the Se­nate, won’t be around to live with the fall­out from his so-called “nu­clear op­tion.”

But other Democrats will. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware is one who con­cedes that he has a lit­tle buyer’s re­morse with the new Se­nate at hand to pre­side over Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­na­tions to high of­fice. Mr. Coons was asked by CNN News last week whether he re­grets fol­low­ing Mr. Reid to change the rules.

“I frankly think many of us will re­gret that in this Congress,” he said, “be­cause [the fil­i­buster] would have been a ter­rific speed bump, po­ten­tial emer­gency brake, to have in our sys­tem to slow down the con­fir­ma­tion of ex­treme nom­i­nees.” That’s ex­actly what Repub­li­cans thought three years ago.

Se­nate Democrats who have iden­ti­fied tar­gets for their ire among Mr. Trump’s an­nounced nom­i­nees will be un­able to block with fil­i­busters the likes of Sen. Jeff Ses­sions of Alabama, who they re­gard as in­suf­fi­ciently pas­sion­ate about civil rights, nom­i­nated for U.S. at­tor­ney gen­eral, and Rep. Tom Price of Ge­or­gia, a fer­vent critic of Oba­macare, nom­i­nated for sec­re­tary of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices.

Repub­li­cans warned their Demo­cratic col­leagues in 2013 that some­day the shoe would be on the other foot, but the Democrats were de­ter­mined to get what they could while they could.

“Democrats won’t be in power in per­pe­tu­ity,” Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama told them. “This is a mis­take — a big one for the long run.” Now Democrats must rest their hopes on per­suad­ing a few squishy Repub­li­can se­na­tors to join them in block­ing the new pres­i­dent’s nom­i­nees, and here comes that wheel.

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