Why on earth would Senate Republicans want to abolish the filibuster for SCOTUS nominees?

posted at 11:21 am on January 26, 2015 by Allahpundit

Jazz wrote about this on Saturday, but the more voices of bewildered disapproval there are on the right, the better our chances of derailing this crazy train before it builds up steam.

We’re now three weeks into the term and the two most notable stories coming out of the new Republican Senate are the inevitable cave on Obama’s executive amnesty and this insanity.

The change is nowhere near a done deal: The proposal has not been widely circulated among Senate Republicans, and its backers say they would make the change only if they can get 67 votes for it on the floor. That means they would need broad support first among Republicans, then with more than a dozen Democratic supporters. Both parties would have to buy in — after pondering whether the shift would help them or hurt them.

But Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who’s spearheading the proposal with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), said the change would bring the Senate back to the way it operated before the presidency of George W. Bush, when the Democratic minority elevated the use of filibusters as a tactic to stymie judicial nominees. Alexander is a Senate institutionalist and deal maker, while Blunt is a member of leadership; both are confidants of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)…

“We’re witnessing a massive flip-flop in slow motion,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “Democrats appreciate the vote of confidence from Republicans in the wisdom of our rules change.”

We confirmed nominees with a simple majority vote for 200 years, say Alexander and Blunt. Right. We also required executive and legislative approval before making sweeping policy changes for those same 200 years. That era, thanks to Obama’s executive power grabs, is coming to an end and his successors in both parties will build on his precedents. As the presidency grows more powerful, the case for maintaining the Senate filibuster to prevent him from dominating another branch with handpicked radicals grows stronger too.

If principle doesn’t convince you, though, the partisan interests here might. Given what the political landscape looks like for the GOP, why would they want to take the initiative in abolishing the SCOTUS filibuster right now? Like Jazz said, all they’re doing is making life easier for Obama over his last two years. If the threshold for confirmation is 60 votes, he knows he’s stuck with a more-or-less mainstream nominee for the Court. If he goes too far left, Republicans will filibuster even if he gets a few RINOs like Mark Kirk to go along. With a 51-vote threshold, people like Kirk and Susan Collins could be decisive. Looking past Obama’s term, the hard fact is that Hillary Clinton is the favorite to win in 2017, meaning that this rule change would probably end up benefiting her rather than a Republican. Even if Hillary gets beaten, the bluer 2016 electorate and unfavorable Senate map for Republicans means the Dems are basically assured of picking up Senate seats. The best-case scenario for McConnell and the GOP in 2017 is that they’re still in control but with a smaller majority than they have now. If President Cruz nominates, say, Miguel Estrada for SCOTUS and 48 Democrats instantly vote no, how likely is it that McConnell can prevent three blue-state Republicans like Kirk from voting with them?

The “strategy” in pushing this now, I take it, is to make it look like a principled decision so that, if/when a Republican president is sworn in with a Republican Senate, the new rule is already there waiting for him. If the GOP waits to nuke the SCOTUS filibuster until President Cruz names his first nominee, the media will screech that it’s a nakedly political move designed to make conservative radicals confirmable. If they nuke the rule now, while Obama’s still president, they can’t be attacked on that point. But … so what? Of course this move is political. It was political when Reid nuked the filibuster for Obama’s non-SCOTUS presidential appointees. If Democrats win big in 2016, with Hillary elected president and Reid back in charge of the Senate, he’ll go ahead and nuke the SCOTUS filibuster too and most of the hacks in the media who’d be shrieking if the GOP had done it will applaud. If Republicans are willing to base their strategy on something as momentous as Supreme Court vacancies on how media hypocrites react, we’re in more trouble than I thought. Meanwhile, by nuking the rule now, the GOP would be handing Reid a great gift: If the worst happens and he and Hillary end up in charge of government in 2017, the rule will already be in place for them. “Don’t blame me,” Reid will say after her first far-left nominee is confirmed with 51 votes. “Republicans put this on the books, not Democrats.” Why not force him to nuke the SCOTUS filibuster himself and at least absorb some criticism from the non-hackish parts of the media?

Speaking of which, a tangential but related thought I had over the weekend: If we do end up with a Republican president in 2017, isn’t it quite likely that we’ll end up with Ted Cruz as a SCOTUS nominee? Maybe not the nominee for the first vacancy — that’ll probably be Paul Clement — but he’s definitely a shortlister, and quite possible for the second. The reason is simple: Both wings of the GOP would prefer to see him in that role than in the Senate. Conservatives would thrill to the prospect of Justice Cruz crafting constitutional law for the next 40 years. The RINO donor class would thrill to the prospect of having him out of their hair, no longer able to engineer shutdowns. As a U.S. senator, former solicitor general of Texas, and Harvard Law grad, he’s amply qualified. The only suspense would be whether his colleagues in the Senate hate him so much that they’d refuse to confirm him or whether they’d bow to tradition in confirming a member from their own ranks. (They’d be thrilled to have Cruz out of their hair too.) He’ll be borked for sure if the SCOTUS filibuster is still intact; Senate Dems would be under incredible pressure to vote no from the lefty base, which will be telling themselves that Cruz is the most radical nominee in American history. Without the filibuster, he’s got a shot — Senate Republicans may hate Cruz but they’d be under incredible pressure from their own base to confirm. None of this, though, speaks to the question of timing. Why would Senate GOPers nuke the filibuster now, on the off-chance that everything lines up and someone like Cruz is nominated in three years, when they can just do it in 2017 or 2018?

Exit question: Why is Lamar Alexander pushing a rule that’ll help, in theory, to get hard-right nominees confirmed? Doesn’t he want mainstreamers?


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

So if the filibuster is eliminated… what’s to stop Obama from packing the court right away? Technically he doesn’t have to wait for a vacancy. All he needs is two more center left judges, and he’s golden.

Seamus on January 26, 2015 at 2:49 PM

Other than the fact that the size of SCOTUS is determined by Congress (not that that is a real impediment to Teh SCOAMT)?

Steve Eggleston on January 26, 2015 at 2:52 PM

The Republican Party has been co-opted. They no longer represent their constituents, if they ever did.

Doesn’t matter if it was laziness or greed or NSA blackmail. The end result is the same. The purpose of the Republican Party is now only to pacify and silence conservatives long enough to get elected, then to troll their constituents as they enact the progressive agenda. They are pursuing the same goal as their Democratic brethren, they are merely running out the clock by trying to convince you they are on your side.

The enemy is fully within the gates. To quote Sean Connery as Jim Malone in The Untouchables, “what are you prepared to do” about it?

Ms. Anthrope on January 26, 2015 at 2:58 PM

Other than the fact that the size of SCOTUS is determined by Congress (not that that is a real impediment to Teh SCOAMT)?

Steve Eggleston on January 26, 2015 at 2:52 PM

Ah, you’re right. I was thinking it didn’t require congress. I remembered that Roosevelt tried something like this in the 30’s, but I forgot the details.

Seamus on January 26, 2015 at 3:04 PM

Ah, you’re right. I was thinking it didn’t require congress. I remembered that Roosevelt tried something like this in the 30′s, but I forgot the details.

Seamus on January 26, 2015 at 3:04 PM

It was legislation proposed in the wake of SCOTUS scuttling major parts of the New Deal (including, if memory serves, the first attempt at Social Security) that would have given FDR the ability to nominate an additional Justice for each sitting Justice over the age of 70.

That threat, just like the still-secret one that cowed John Roberts, worked spectacularly.

Steve Eggleston on January 26, 2015 at 3:13 PM

The reason is ludicrously simple: They want to “look like liberals” to Latinos and other center-left voters…

In Stupid-Party calculus, they think they can get enough center-left Latino votes to offset the inevitable loss when the Republican base rebels.

The leaders of the GOP think they can win by:

1) *Not* doing anything that the Dems can bash them with in the election.
2) Passing “comprehensive amnesty” by any other name and number of bills because doing so will give them enough Latino votes to neutralize the inevitable anti-GOP-establishment backlash in 2016 by conservatives and thinking moderates. (Alternatively, they are rock stupid enough to think conservatives will vote for them again like we did in 2014…)

Yes, it is a plan for epic failure, perhaps destruction of the party for decades, but it fits the circumstances and evidence present.

DrDeano on January 26, 2015 at 3:32 PM

You’ve only been told this for over a decade. The only true surprise is that you think the GOP represents anything you stand for.

Spliff Menendez on January 26, 2015 at 2:00 PM

No, no surprise to me that the GOP doesn’t represent anything I stand for.
The surprise is that the GOP still doesn’t believe we know this.

leftamark on January 26, 2015 at 3:40 PM

…rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.

This differs from Barack Obama’s America how, exactly?

GrumpyOldFart on January 26, 2015 at 3:43 PM

Because they are progressives, nothing but the Democrat (Lite) Party.

TulsAmerican on January 26, 2015 at 3:46 PM

Party of Stupid, Party of Stupid
Sing with me everyone!
Party of Stupid does stupid things.

higgins1991 on January 26, 2015 at 4:17 PM

Exit question: Why is Lamar Alexander pushing a rule that’ll help, in theory, to get hard-right nominees confirmed? Doesn’t he want mainstreamers?

Because if Ginsberg retires Obama will nominate a black woman to replace her, and Alexander wants to avoid the optics of filibustering such a historic nominee, so he wants to get rid of the filibuster to neuter Cruz, Paul, and Lee.

Daemonocracy on January 26, 2015 at 4:18 PM

It was legislation proposed in the wake of SCOTUS scuttling major parts of the New Deal (including, if memory serves, the first attempt at Social Security) that would have given FDR the ability to nominate an additional Justice for each sitting Justice over the age of 70.

That threat, just like the still-secret one that cowed John Roberts, worked spectacularly.

Steve Eggleston on January 26, 2015 at 3:13 PM

Am I the only one who would look at legislation like this and immediately do nothing but nominate 70-year-old judges who share my political philosophy? Like wishing for a genie to grant more wishes?

The Schaef on January 26, 2015 at 4:19 PM

Am I the only one who would look at legislation like this and immediately do nothing but nominate 70-year-old judges who share my political philosophy? Like wishing for a genie to grant more wishes?

The Schaef on January 26, 2015 at 4:19 PM

I believe the 70-year-olds referenced in the court-packing scheme referred only to those already on SCOTUS as of the bill’s adoption.

Because if Ginsberg retires Obama will nominate a black woman to replace her, and Alexander wants to avoid the optics of filibustering such a historic nominee, so he wants to get rid of the filibuster to neuter Cruz, and Paul, and Lee.

Daemonocracy on January 26, 2015 at 4:18 PM

ReWrite™ engaged for philosophy.

BTW, Lee’s on board.

Steve Eggleston on January 26, 2015 at 5:08 PM

Both Blount and Alexander are wrong on their history, we approved nominations on a majority vote for 200 years, with a filibuster available for those we didn’t believe were qualified. The Democrats changed the rules, not because of Republican filibusters, but because they wanted to nominate judges who wouldn’t have made it otherwise. They wanted to jam the courts with liberals to pass their agenda through the courts because they’re incapable of legislating it.

The Republicans continue to show us they’re the stupid party, only it appears they get stupider when they get power. Someone please tell these bozos the Democrats are never going to like them. Did anyone see one Democrat fight when Reid change the rules? Was there a protest from the Democrats or the Republicans, when Reid changed the rules. The truth be known, the establishment doesn’t really mind the rules because, with rules come responsibilities and these guys don’t want any responsibility.

It’s time for a 3rd party and the time is now, so that 3rd party can get all geared up for 2016. The tea party was ready for the 2010 election in one year, if we do this now, we can be ready for November 2016 and get these Republicans and Democrats out of office.

bflat879 on January 26, 2015 at 5:50 PM

Because if Ginsberg retires Obama will nominate a black woman to replace her, and Alexander wants to avoid the optics of filibustering such a historic nominee, so he wants to get rid of the filibuster to neuter Cruz, Paul, and Lee.

Daemonocracy on January 26, 2015 at 4:18 PM

If they want to avoid the optics in this specific case, then exert some party discipline and don’t have a filibuster.
But keep the filibuster available to shoot down the far-left white males that not even the Dem media cares about.

AesopFan on January 26, 2015 at 6:12 PM

I’m starting to think the Repub’s aren’t afraid of the potential bad optics- I’m leaning towards the belief that their interests are much more closely aligned with the Leftards than we think…

Fathom on January 26, 2015 at 6:26 PM

WOW! Are the Republicans that stupid. how about because if they don’t then the DemocRATS will. But then since we seem to have nothing but the DemocRAT wing of the Republican part running everything maybe it isn’t important.

pwb on January 26, 2015 at 6:33 PM

So they can pack the court with liberal Democrats, then they won’t have to pretend there Republicans.

hardrock230 on January 26, 2015 at 6:47 PM

I think the bigger question is why anybody is surprised when the GOP is the moderate wing of the Democrat party

Brock Robamney on January 26, 2015 at 8:51 PM

So they can pack the court with liberal Democrats, then they won’t have to pretend there Republicans.
hardrock230 on January 26, 2015 at 6:47 PM

What exactly is a Republican?

Brock Robamney on January 26, 2015 at 9:05 PM

That era, thanks to Obama’s executive power grabs, is coming to an end and his successors in both parties will build on his precedents.

I’m guessing you’re starting to regret shilling for a party that invented the term unitary executive, huh?

Next time think through the consequences.

Tlaloc on January 26, 2015 at 9:22 PM

The “strategy” in pushing this now, I take it, is to make it look like a principled decision so that, if/when a Republican president is sworn in with a Republican Senate, the new rule is already there waiting for him.

You think the GOP has a real plan to win back women and hispanics in the next 20 months?

If so they’re keeping a really good secret…

Tlaloc on January 26, 2015 at 9:25 PM

McConnell has deflated balls. He and Boehner are two of the biggest reasons the GOP is called the party of stupid. Thanks a pantload Kentucky!!!!

ultracon on January 26, 2015 at 9:58 PM

Why on earth would Senate Republicans want to abolish the filibuster for SCOTUS nominees?

To give Jindal empirical data to support his theory about the party of stupid.

rukiddingme on January 26, 2015 at 11:01 PM

To give Jindal empirical data to support his theory about the party of stupid.
rukiddingme on January 26, 2015 at 11:01 PM

I thought making Skkkalise the majority leader did that

Brock Robamney on January 26, 2015 at 11:20 PM

You think the GOP has a real plan to win back women and hispanics in the next 20 months?

If so they’re keeping a really good secret…

Tlaloc on January 26, 2015 at 9:25 PM

There is an even deeper secret. Any plan for winning back their own voters who are walking away in disgust. Oh, right. They have no such plan.

Subotai Bahadur on January 27, 2015 at 12:55 AM

Reid abolished the filibuster.
Senate Democrats abolished the filibuster.
It’s as dead as Julius Ceasar. Killed the same way.

You don’t get to make up your own history of events when there’s a slow day in the news cycle.

papertiger on January 27, 2015 at 1:05 AM

Two words to describe the Republican strategy: Full retard

Ukiah on January 27, 2015 at 6:25 AM

Supreme court nominations still liable for filibuster.

You ever have one of those days? I’m having a week, seems like everything I say or do is wrong, no matter how innocnt or well meant the intention.

THink I’ll go play my guitar for a while. Stepping away from the keyboard.

papertiger on January 30, 2015 at 2:29 AM