This morning the petty little tyrant also known as Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) did what he has longed to do and finally changed the rules of the Senate to weaken filibusters, the so-called “nuclear option:”
In a move that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) called “the most important and most dangerous restructuring of Senate rules since Thomas Jefferson wrote them,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pushed the button on the long-threatened “nuclear option” today to require a simple majority to move forward President Obama’s judicial nominees.
There were three Democratic defectors — Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — on the rules change, which came to the floor over the block of three judges intended for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The rule change only affects court appointments below the level of the Supreme Court and also doesn’t limit filibusters against legislation. Yet. Obama hinted at attacking the legislative filibuster, and you can bet the filibuster against Supreme Court nominees will be similarly brushed aside, should an opening arise between now and the next Inauguration Day.
Many senators and outside observers (including yours truly) commented this morning that this could well come back to bite the Democrats in the behind, once the Republicans take control of the Senate, which could come as early as next year, given their crumbling political position thanks to Obamacare. It seems at first and even second glance to be a shortsighted move, an act of petulance done in spite against one’s own interests.
I think, however, there is a deeper motive.
Reid, for all his faults, is not a stupid man. Or, at least, he’s a skilled politician who can see which way the electoral winds are blowing. He remembers 2010, when anger over the passage of Obamacare cost the Democrats the House and almost lost them the Senate.
But now people are even angrier, now that Obamacare has kicked in. And it’s only going to get worse for the Democrats, as the web site doesn’t get fixed, the “access shock” kicks in, rates go up even further, and millions who thought their employer-based coverage was safe find out otherwise starting in fall, 2014, just before the elections… See where this is going?
Harry Reid knows the Senate is lost. He’s read the entrails for his party’s fortunes and seen in the not too distant future a Republican House, Senate, and (quite possibly) White House. With the loss of legislative power this entails, Reid has laid the groundwork to do the one thing he can do to protect the progressive agenda in 2017 and beyond: pack the courts with progressive judges.
Court packing was the scheme through which FDR hoped to load up a conservative Supreme Court that had been blocking key New Deal measures with liberal justices who would swing decisions his way. While the plan per se failed, it had the intended effect: the Court was intimidated and, through retirement and changed minds, started to vote FDR’s way.
Reid has the same thing in mind. I would not be surprised at all to see Obama appoint a bunch of appellate and district judges, in order to have them place when Republican measures undoing Obamacare and other progressive legislation are challenged in court. Long after Reid and his majority are gone, these progressive judges would be in place to rule with “empathy” and “fairness” and find new rights in the Constitution that no one else has ever seen there.
But what about the Supreme Court? Wouldn’t they smack down errant lower courts?
You’d better hope Scalia, Thomas, and the other Center-Right justices stay healthy, otherwise this same maneuver will be used to give us, for example, Cass Sunstein, who is a fan of FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights,” or California Justice Goodwin Liu (Be afraid, be very afraid).
Court Packing II, coming your way in 2014.
RELATED: At Twitchy, a video festival of Democrats claiming that limiting the filibuster would be a disaster — back when George W. Bush was president. How times change.
UPDATE: At NRO’s Bench Memos, Curt Levey sees some real bad news in this development —
The immediate impact will be to turn the D.C. Circuit — often the only check on a president’s executive power — into a rubber stamp for Obama’s unilateral rewriting of statutes, his questionable executive orders, his overreaching agency regulations, and his other Nixonian abuses of executive authority.
Over a somewhat longer term, my concern is that the moderating force that was exerted on Obama’s judicial nominations by the filibuster threat is gone. As a result, expect to see more nominations of radicals like Goodwin Liu and a faster remaking of the entire federal judiciary.
Read the rest for some hopeful news.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)