Who's up for a brief history lesson? When Democrats were in the minority during the Bush administration, they vociferously opposed -- and ultimately stopped -- a Republican effort to do away with the extra-constitutional practice of filibustering judicial nominees (which remains the right thing to do, but that's an issue for another day). Sen. Dianne Feinstein in May of 2005 warned in a floor speech that by changing Senate rules to end the super-majority threshold for confirming presidential appointments, Republicans would shove the Senate down a slippery slope:
"The nuclear option, if successful, will turn the Senate into a body that could have its rules broken at any time by a majority of senators unhappy with any position taken by the minority. It begins with judicial nomination, next will be executive appointments, and then legislation."
Here are Feinstein's full remarks:
Feinstein was voicing her primary concern that the legislative filibuster -- a practice that is universally accepted as Constitutional, and has been employed by members of both parties -- may eventually be eroded. In other words, she contended that abolishing the judicial filibuster using the "nuclear option" would be the gateway drug to tampering with the legislative filibuster, which would be unthinkable.
Yet that's exactly what Democrats are proposing to do tomorrow. Harry Reid & Co. lustily used the judicial filibuster in an unprecedented fashion to stymie numerous qualified Republican-appointed judges like Miguel Estrada when they were the minority party. But now that they're back in power, they've become exasperated with minority Republicans' filibuster "abuse," which has stalled and blocked legislation -- which has long been the specific and undisputed purpose of the filibuster. The Democratic caucus is currently deliberating over how best to jettison or circumvent the practice, and Senate Republican aides say any such action is likely to be introduced tomorrow afternoon.
As Democrats contemplate uprooting decades of Senate tradition by "reforming" the legislative filibuster rule, Republicans have compiled a video reminding them of their own words:
Senate Democrats are currently considering triggering their own thermonuclear option on the legislative filibuster. Before they take that plunge, they might want to consider heeding their own counsel from just a few short years ago.
UPDATE - What a striking dichotomy: While Senate Democrats are plotting to weaken the rights of the minority party in the upper chamber, Speaker Boehner is preparing to enhance minority party rights in the lower chamber:
On Wednesday the new speaker of the House of Representatives plans to offer a package of rule changes that, he says, will give minority-party members more of a say and decentralize power. In short, Ohio Republican Mr. Boehner is promising he'll be a different figure from many speakers throughout history—from Republican Joseph Cannon a century ago to his immediate predecessor, Democrat Nancy Pelosi—who kept a tighter leash.
How this tension is resolved—between Mr. Boehner's promises and the need to get things done—will help determine the success of the new Republican majority. The GOP is in a hurry to show that it's different, not just from Democrats but from its old self.
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