Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Facing The Consequences

As we noted on Tuesday, while much of the media has been hyperventilating about Healthcare.gov, Obamacare enrollment actually seems to be sort of working now, and it could still succeed, much to the dismay of many on the right. Even as the website improves daily, Congress - or at least Congressional Democrats - have been attempting to get a few other things done.

Republicans in the Senate, however, have been finding new excuses to do nothing. The one thing they have done sucessfully is to keep a lid on their Democratic colleagues and President Obama, specifically by obstructing the president's long list of judicial nominees from confirmation. Just this week, Republicans filibustered the third nomination by President Obama for what's often considered the second highest court in the nation, the D.C. Circuit Court.

As Greg Sargent and others reported Tuesday afternoon, that act of obstruction by Senate Republicans may finally blow up in their faces, as it appears that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may finally use the 'nuclear option.'

If this seems to you like a political version of Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie Brown yet again, we can't honestly disagree. We've been here several times before in the last few years, most recently in mid-July. As Jonathan Chait noted yesterday, though, things are a bit different this time.

This time, instead of simply blocking President Obama's nominees because Republicans disagree with the job the nominee is slated to fill, as they did with Richard Cordray, Republicans in the Senate are attempting to block all nominees by President Obama to the courts. As Chait notes, Senate Republicans believe "Obama has no right to alter the existing ideological balance of the courts" - even though every other President has had that right.

Whether or not this dates back to 2005, as Chait argues, or dates back even further, the fact remains that Republicans in the Senate are now attempting to impose a set of rules on this President, that has never been applied to any other President in history. Effectively, as Dylan Matthews points out, this Republican obstructionism might block President Obama's entire non-health care policy agenda for his second term - an obstructionist outcome Senate Democrats finally appear ready to blow up.

As Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post noted Tuesday afternoon, Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein of California have finally stated they're ready to join with their Democratic colleagues to change the rules of the Senate. That means Harry Reid finally has fifty-one votes - enough to change the rules of the Senate so that judicial nominations become votes that pass with a simple majority.

Over at Washington Monthly, Jonathan Bernstein tried to figured out why Senate Republicans collectively might have made such a colossally bad political move with all of this obstructionism, when we think he hit on a key point: Senate Republicans, as a group, probably weren't thinking anything. Each person was thinking only of themselves, and how they'd look to their hard-core right-wing constituents, if they could keep a lid on all of President Obama's judicial nominations.

Now, it finally appears that strategy will blow up in their faces.

Republicans can't say they weren't warned. Obstructionism has consequences, as does selfishness.