Filibusted: GOP Had It Coming

Sen. Mitch McConnell, left, and Sen. Harry Reid in a more collegial moment this year in Washington. | AP Photo

Sen. Mitch McConnell, left, and Sen. Harry Reid in a more collegial moment this year in Washington. | AP Photo

Republican howls of outrage echoed across the country Thursday, led by howler-in-chief Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky over the U.S. Senate’s landmark decision to rein in filibuster abuse.

A “power grab,” Mr. McConnell blustered, threatening revenge on Democrats.

“You’ll regret this,” he said according to The New York Times. “And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”

But the only regret here is that Democrats didn’t act sooner to end unprecedented obstruction by a minority of Republicans when it comes to the president’s right to appoint federal judges and officials to numerous executive positions that require Senate confirmation.

The GOP’s histrionic response is unconvincing. Really, “They had it coming,” to borrow a line from the musical “Chicago.”

Republicans already had taken filibuster obstruction to new levels during the administration of President Barack Obama. The final straw for Democrats last week came after the GOP blocked the third of three appointments to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.

Not because the three highly regarded nominees were controversial. They aren’t.

Not because they aren’t eminently qualified. They are.

The Republican minority in the GOP blocked the nominees simply to obstruct the president’s constitutional right to appoint members to a court considered enormously powerful, especially when it comes to considering policies and regulations of Washington.

The GOP hates the idea of judges on that court who might be friendly toward the Obama administration when it comes, say, to tougher environmental regulations.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who once enjoyed a collegial relationship with his counterpart, Mr. McConnell, noted the surge in GOP obstruction.

“In the history of the Republic, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominees,” he said. “Half of them have occurred during the Obama administration.”

Republicans lost the last presidential election when Mr. Obama won a second term. They failed to gain a majority in the Senate where Democrats hold 53 of 100 seats and Republicans, 45. Independents hold two seats.

Yet the GOP has indulged in excessive use of the filibuster to stop what it could not through elections under rules that allow them to demand 60 votes to end debate and actually vote.

Under the rule change the Senate adopted Thursday, a simple majority can decide whether to vote on executive appointments, such as cabinet officials and other officials and federal judicial nominees, except to the Supreme Court.

Most Americans probably envision the filibuster as the quaint, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” all-night speech by actor James Stewart — or the recent, more erratic performance by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ranting against the Affordable Care Act and reading from “Green Eggs and Ham.”

But the GOP’s use of the filibuster under President Obama is neither quaint nor entertaining.

It had become a cynical tool of obstruction and the change is most welcome.

This article first appears in the Courier Journal.