Fox News Warns Filibuster Reform Will Break The Senate, Ignores The Fact It's Already Broken
Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ
Fox News is continuing to baselessly claim that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's proposal to eliminate the ability of the GOP minority to filibuster executive branch nominations is unwarranted.
On the July 12 edition of America Live, Fox News guest host Alisyn Camerota brought on Fox contributors Joe Trippi and Ed Rollins to discuss Reid's announcement that his caucus will enact limited filibuster reform, perhaps as early as next week.
The proposal currently being floated would change Senate rules so a president's picks to fill leadership positions in his cabinet and the executive branch automatically receive up-or-down votes, as opposed to being held hostage to GOP filibusters. Although this proposal wouldn't affect the unjustified filibusters of judicial nominations, this limited reform would finally allow simple majority votes on the nominees for labor secretary, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director, and the bipartisan slate for the National Labor Relations Board.
Camerota and her guests, however, adopted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's argument that because many of President Obama's nominees were eventually confirmed, not only is there no problem, but disallowing subsequent filibusters on these cabinet and agency selections will result in the death of the institution.
Trippi and Rollins' supposed concern for the partisan harm that filibuster reform might cause to the "decorum" of the Senate was too much for even Camerota, who laughed off the concern as "quaint."
The Republican minority - cheered on by right-wing media - has relentlessly engaged in an all-out blockade of the president's agenda, just as McConnell unashamedly admitted he would do in hopes of limiting the administration to one term. Part of this nihilistic approach of blanket obstructionism has included delaying as long as possible the confirmation of the personnel the president needs to carry out his initiatives. Taking into account this significant delay, the GOP talking points that Camerota recycled are true only in that the president's executive nominees, for the most part, were eventually seated.
But what neither Camerota nor McConnell mention is the fact that the Republican minority has required Reid to break filibusters on these nominees in unprecedented fashion. That is, by denying these executive nominees timely up-or-down votes and instead requiring Reid to regularly break filibusters on them (by filing or voting for "cloture"), GOP senators have successfully stalled parts of the executive branch from carrying out the initiatives of a twice-elected president. And this obstructionism is indeed unprecedented, as Marge Baker of People For The America Way points out:
From 1949 (when Senate rules were changed to provide for cloture on nominations) through 2008, cloture votes were forced on only 20 executive branch nominations. However, in just the first four and a half years of the Obama administration, there have already been 16 such cloture votes...That's an increase of more than 1,000% in the rate of forced cloture votes on nominations - 20 nominations on which cloture votes were forced in sixty years compared to 16 in just four and a half. Republicans are on pace to force 28 cloture votes by the end of the Obama administration - more than under all previous presidents combined.
An examination of President George W. Bush's term reveals that the Senate subjected only seven executive nominations to cloture votes in the entire eight years of his presidency--compared to 16 in just the first four and a half of the Obama administration.
Furthermore, Camerota is absolutely right when she considered her guests' slippery slope argument - that the Senate's traditions will be lamentably shattered - laughable. Ezra Klein of The Washington Post went farther and called such claims "utter nonsense." From the Post:
[H]ere's where the claims of tradition break down into utter nonsense. The Senate never used to work like this. The minority could have an unconstrained right to obstruct because they rarely invoked it. The majority could govern more easily because the two parties hadn't polarized into disciplined war machines. To airily talk about the Senate of the past is almost an obscenity: It was killed long before today, and there's no resolution to this crisis that will bring it back.
The question should not be who is doing a better job protecting the Senate of the past. It's which set of rules will build a stronger Senate for the future.