Not the Kind That Bombed Hiroshima
By John Lawrence
In Washington there’s such a thing known as the nuclear option which means changing the rules of the Senate to get rid of the filibuster. The Democrats shied away from this during the Obama administration even though Republicans effectively killed or watered down most of Obama’s initiatives by means of the filibuster. The Democrats could have changed the rules, but they were too nice, too traditional. Republicans just go for raw power. So now we’re at the pass where Trump says, “If we end up with that gridlock, I would say, ‘If you can, Mitch, go nuclear.’” He’s talking to Mitch McConnell, the Senate leader.
By some obscure procedure the leader of the Senate can rule that the Senate can decide any issue by majority vote, even though the rules of the Senate specify that ending a filibuster requires the consent of 60 senators (out of 100) for legislation, 67 for amending a Senate rule. So it’s all about the rules of the Senate which can be changed at any time by the party in power. There’s nothing in the Constitution about the filibuster. It’s just a traditional thing which the Democrats should have changed during the Obama administration in order to get his progressive agenda implemented. But they didn’t. Now Trump and the Repubs are poised to do just that in order to pass their conservative agenda and get their conservative judge on the Supreme Court, thus effectively rendering the Democrats impotent.
Trump has nominated Neil M. Gorsuch to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. Democrats have proposed a fight — as well they should after Republicans refused to allow Obama to appoint the next Supreme Court justice when, according to tradition, it was his right to do so. They kept Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, in limbo indefinitely refusing even to hold a hearing, refusing to even consider him although Scalia’s vacancy came up at about a year before the end of Obama’s Presidency.
Democrats believe that that seat, which will determine whether the majority on the Court is liberal or conservative, was stolen from them by hard core Republican tactics. Now Repubs are getting ready to use hard core tactics to install their man, Gorsuch, on the Supreme Court so they can look forward to having a majority conservative Court for decades. Democrats, however, are itching for a full scale showdown. It’s about time.
Obama thought that the proper thing to do was to compromise with Republicans over his Obamacare bill and the banking bill, Dodd-Frank. As a result, both bills were severely flawed whereas if the Dems had gone for the nuclear option back then, Obama would have had more robust legislation. While Obama had majorities in both Houses during his first two years, Republicans had the filibuster which meant that, instead of 51 votes needed to pass legislation in the Senate, 60 votes were routinely needed because Republicans routinely filibustered everything. The Dems had 60 votes in the Senate for a total of four months during which time Obamacare was passed. Then a Repub, Scott Brown, was elected to fill Tedd Kennedy’s seat and the Dems’ control of all three branches of government was over.
Repubs Want the Dems to Play Nice and Not Filibuster
Now the Repubs are appealing to Senate custom to get the Dems to go along with Gorsuch’s nomination. I say NO WAY. The Dems should fight this with every bone and breath in their collective bodies even if they have to fight for four years until Trump is hopefully kicked out of the White House. There is nothing in the Constitution that says there has to be nine Justices on the Supreme Court. There haven’t always been nine justices on the court. The U.S. Constitution established the Supreme Court but left it to Congress to decide how many justices should make up the court. The Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number at six: a chief justice and five associate justices.
So let them get by with eight as they’ve done for the last year. Scalia died on February 13, 2016. That’s about a year ago. Democrats should fight Gorsuch’s nomination or else they will have proven that they are a party of wimps. If they let Trump steamroller over them, how could they ever respect themselves again? The Repubs have been playing hard ball for years. Now it’s time for the Dems to do so also.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said Judge Gorsuch must meet the 60 vote threshold required to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. Good for him! If the Dems stick to their guns, Gorsuch will never make it to the Supreme Court unless Mitch McConnell goes for the nuclear option which would eliminate the filibuster. Eight Dems would have to join with the Repubs to get Gorsuch past a filibuster. They will never do that.
If Repubs do exercise the nuclear option, Democrats will wish they had a time machine so they could go back eight years and do the same thing in which case they could have gotten some robust progressive legislation passed. But they were too nice and Obama thought he was supposed to compromise with Republicans. Well, they sure didn’t think they should compromise with him. And now Trump, who is acting like a dictator, is telling his fellow Repubs to go ahead and use the nuclear option which would effectively make him a full blown dictator.
“The Democrats should treat Trump’s SCOTUS pick with the exact same courtesy the GOP showed Merrick Garland,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama, wrote on Twitter. “Don’t flinch, don’t back down.” Yes, and they should do it for four years or even eight years should the most abhorrent thing possible, Trump’s re-election, happen.
Repubs Used Filibuster to Block Every Initiative to Help the Middle Class
In President Obama’s July 12  weekly address he said, “So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.” He could have said, “Since 2009.” Since the 2009 “stimulus,” Republicans have obstructed pretty much every effort to help the economy. In the Senate they have filibustered hundreds of bills, and since the “stimulus” they have managed to keep anything from passing that might help the economy.
In the House, Republicans have refused to allow votes on anything that seriously would help the economy, instead passing only tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, spending cuts on essential things like maintaining our infrastructure and scientific research, and cutting regulations that protect people and the environment from being harmed by corporations seeking profit.
Republicans have blocked every effort since the stimulus to maintain infrastructure, hire teachers, raise the minimum wage, give equal pay for women, stop special tax breaks for millionaires and corporations (especially oil companies), stop tax breaks for sending jobs out of the country, provide student loan relief, help the long-term unemployed, and more. Instead they insist on even more tax breaks for oil companies and billionaires, on cutting environmental protections, deregulating oil companies, and so on.
Republicans stymied Obama at every turn for eight years. In particular they filibustered all his infrastructure bills. They filibustered equal pay for women. They filibustered the Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act. They filibustered Student Loan Reform. They filibustered the Buffett Rule which would ensure that millionaires paid a tax comparable to middle class Americans. And on and on. Now they want to eliminate the provision what allowed them to do so and go full steam ahead with their agenda. They got down in the gutter and used dirty tactics for eight years with Obama and now they want Democrats to adhere to tradition and play nice with them. Don’t you do it Mr. Schumer. It’s time for the Democrat Party to grow a pair and show the Repubs just what you are made of. Otherwise, Dictator Trump will trample you into oblivion.