Click above for a 50-second trip down Memory Lane with Sens. Reid, Clinton, and Obama talking about the "nuclear option" back in 2005. A good time for all is guaranteed!
Back in 2005, the Republican majority in the Senate was threatening to do away with procedural filibusters when it came to judicial nominees and other appointments. The move would allow the World's Greatest Deliberative Body to proceed to up or down votes on presidential picks in those categories with just 51 votes rather than a two-thirds majority. Majority Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and future Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pooh-poohed that this was any sort of big breach of tradition.
At the same time, folks such as Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) announced the very end of constitutional rule if the "nuclear option" were indeed triggered. The whole point of the rule, they said, was to protect the right of the legislative minority to gum up the works in the Senate. Simple majority votes to end debate before votes? That was for the ruffians in the House. The Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, had made it so. Indeed, as late as 2008, Harry Reid was still saying the nuclear option was an abomination and swearing he would never use such a dastardly tactic.
This week, of course, the Senate Dems went ahead and pulled the switch on the nuclear option, citing Republican obstructionism as the reason that they had to go ahead and embrace exactly what they denounced just a few years ago. The immediate case deals with the important D.C. Circuit of Appeals, where Obama's picks would change the balance of the panel for years to come and have been twisting in the wind as a result.
They had to do it, don't you see, say liberals, because the Republican crackpots—Wacko Birds and Angry Birds alike!—just wouldn't allow "cloture" (the end of debate, needed before a proper vote on a nominee) to happen. Conservatives respond that the only reason the GOP was busting the president's chops on nominees is because his choices were so radical. Now that the filibuster on appointees is gone, they worry, Obama will fill the nation's courts and bureaucracies with bomb-throwers. The upside, say cons, is that this means 2014 and 2016 will be all about Obama's radicalism.
What do you think, Reason readers? Is Republican obstructionism the problem here (The Weekly Standard notes that 71 percent of Obama's Circuit Court nominees were confirmed in his first term, versus 67 percent of George W. Bush's in his first term). Or is it Obama's radicalism (the Wall Street Journal writes that of recent presidents, Obama is the only one "whose average and median waiting time for circuit and district court nominees from confirmation to nomination was more than six months")?
This seems like as good a time as any to remind you all of the long-term trend to voters identifying as "independents" and that display such as this are surely one of the reasons why people are looking for a real alternative to the played-out politics of Team Red and Team Blue.