As Jonathan Chait notes, only five Republican senators voted to confirm Justice Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, and three of those senators — Judd Gregg, Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe — are no longer in the Senate. If Republicans take the Senate this November, there is a very real possibility that no one President Obama nominates to a Supreme Court vacancy, no matter what their record or qualifications, could be confirmed to the Court.
We made a similar point in 2012, when Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock defeated Lugar in a Republican Senate primary after he attacked Lugar for his support of Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. As we wrote then, “[i]n light of this incident, it is unlikely that any of the few remaining Republicans who backed an Obama Supreme Court appointee will be willing to risk their careers by doing the same again.”
Indeed, under the Senate’s current rules, Republicans could block a Supreme Court appointment right now, if they chose to, even though Democrats effectively control 55 percent of the Senate. Last November, when Senate Democrats voted to invoke the so-called “nuclear opinion” and end the GOP’s ability to require a supermajority to vote to confirm most nominees, they left in place the 60 supermajority requirement for Supreme Court confirmations. As a result, unless at least five Republicans oppose a GOP filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, the current rules allow the GOP to keep that nominee from being confirmed.
Of course, if the vacancy were to arise right now, when Democrats control a solid majority of the Senate’s seats, it would be a simple matter to invoke the “nuclear option” again — a procedure that allows the Senate’s rules to be changed by a simple majority vote. But that assumes that a majority of the Senate is willing to support such a rules change.
Although Republicans have not, to say the least, been particularly cooperative when it comes to confirming President Obama’s judges, the truth is that there are some GOP senators who have been less obstructionist than others. Earlier this month, for example, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted with Democrats on Michelle Friedland’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Friedland, by virtue of the fact that she once clerked on the Supreme Court and that she is a relatively young 41 years-old, is a plausible Supreme Court nominee in a Democratic administration.
The nightmare scenario for Democrats under the current Senate rules arises if Republicans take over the Senate but Collins and Murkowski break with their party to support President Obama’s future Supreme Court nominee. This November, Democrats must defend their gains from the 2008 wave election year where they won seats in states like Alaska and Arkansas where Democrats typically do not fare particularly well. It is easy to imagine Republicans emerging with a slight majority — maybe 51 seats — once all the votes are counted.
Under that scenario, an Obama nominee is still likely to be supported by all 49 of the remaining members of the Democratic caucus, and that nominee could be supported by a handful of Republicans as well. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that any Republican would vote at that particular moment to change the Senate’s rules in order to allow a Supreme Court nominee to clear the Senate by a simple majority vote. To do so would likely be political suicide.
The Senate Democrats’ decision to cut Supreme Court nominees out of the nuclear option last November, in other words, could prove deadly for any nomination President Obama sends to the Senate. If Republicans take the Senate this November, we may need to get used to seeing an empty seat on the Supreme Court for a very long time.
The Senate today failed to invoke cloture on the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Every Senate Republican and seven Democrats voted to filibuster Adegbile’s nomination after a concerted right-wing smear campaign targeted the nominee. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also changed his vote to no as a procedural tactic.)
From the very beginning, the Right’s problem with Adegbile was that he would be a strong leader of an office that they despise. As we wrote in January,
Conservatives have not been fans of the civil rights division under the leadership of President Obama and Attorney General Holder, who installed now-Labor Secretary Tom Perez to restore the division to its original purpose after neglect under the Bush administration. In other words, President Obama has nominated civil rights advocates to the office and encouraged them to enforce civil rights measures….which is just too much for some conservative activists to bear.
So, opponents of the Civil Rights Division’s work went looking for reasons to smear Obama’s nominee to head it. Luckily for them, former Bush administration official J. Christian Adams, who specializes in concocting race-baiting stories made for Fox News (he’s the one who invented the New Black Panther Party freakout) was on the case.
Adams and his allies focused on Adegbile’s work at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where he helped provide legal representation to Mumia Abu-Jamal, a convicted murderer whose sentence of capital punishment had been based on jury instructions that violated the United States Constitution. The court agreed and Abu-Jamal was resentenced to life in prison. As Adam Serwer writes today, it is hardly unheard of for executive branch and judicial nominees to have histories of representing unsavory clients – Chief Justice John Roberts, for instance, had done pro bono work on behalf of a man who had murdered eight people.
But the attack on Adegbile stuck, as Fox News called him a “cop killer’s coddler,” the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer devoted several segmentsof his program to attacking him, the Wall Street Journal editorialized against him (also attacking him for his work defending the Voting Rights Act), and Senators Pat Toomey and Ted Cruz publicly spoke out against him. In a speech on the Senate Floor yesterday, Cruz said that Adegbile’s work at LDF was “fanning…flames of racial tension.”
So now, the Civil Rights Division – which works to combat problems like housing and employment discrimination, protect voting rights, and ensure the rights of people with disabilities – continues without someone to head it. Which, of course, was the Right’s goal all along.
Right-wingers derailing America for their own goals, episode #233,233.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
Last month, Senate Democrats were forced to change the rules of the filibuster after Republicans vowed to block all three of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals despite the fact that they had no problem with the nominees themselves.
But in the alternate universe of the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, when it comes to judicial nominations, “Senate Republicans have rarely displayed political courage stopping only a handful of nominees – nominees that ideologically would have been to the left of Hugo Chavez.”
Perkins said in his radio address today that the president’s nominations have in fact violated God’s “specific guidance on the selection of judges.”
Looking through a list of Obama judicial nominees delayed or blocked by the GOP, it’s hard to find any who resemble the late Venezuelan president, but the FRC’s perception of these things tends to be skewed.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
Why the Christian Right Believes It Has Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Impose Its Radical Worldview on America | Alternet
Elections have consequences. The Senate Democrats’ detonation of the “nuclear option” has dramatically raised the stakes for secular progressives in 2014, because if there are two issues that juice the Christian Right the most, it’s women’s reproductive rights and judicial activism. On the latter, the Religious Right senses a once-in-a-decade opportunity to impose its radical worldview on America.
Last week, the Senate voted 52-48 to eliminate the ability of the minority party in the Senate to filibuster executive branch nominees and any judgeship below the Supreme Court by changing the requirements for passage to a simple majority vote. It was a historic move made because there was no other alternative, given the GOP’s unprecedented abuse of the filibuster. In the history of the United States, 168 presidential nominees have been filibustered. Half occurred under all presidents from Washington through to Bush. Remarkably, the other half has taken place under just one president: Obama.
Why such aggressive judicial obstructionism by the GOP?
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. writes, “This era’s conservatives will use any means at their disposal to win control of the courts. Their goal is to do all they can to limit Congress’s ability to enact social reforms.”
The Christian Right, which is the GOP’s most reliable and agitated voting bloc, is obsessed with the courts, and the Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit is the nation’s second most important judicial body, which is why Republicans “gave the game away when all but a few of them opposed Obama’s three most recent appointments.”
Now that Democrats were forced into limiting the filibuster, the Christian Right has its incentive to mobilize for 2014. A simple majority control of the Senate gives it an opportunity to pack the courts with judges straight out of the Justice Scalia mold, who once said that separation of church and state would come under scrutiny under a Supreme Court with a Scalia majority. If the Christian Right sweeps Republicans to control the Senate in next year’s midterms, the anti-secularists will take a big step forward toward their stated ideological goals.
The recent Values Voter Summit demonstrated that the likely 2016 GOP frontrunners have a base wish to transform America’s secular state into a tyrannical theocracy — a nirvana absent gays, liberals, immigrants, Muslims and science books. The right-wing media elites are already doing their bit to gin up the far right’s judicial activists with Rush Limbaugh comparing filibuster reform to rape.
Truth in Action Ministries recently released a film titled Freedom on Trial, which features Robert Bork, the failed Reagan Supreme Court nominee, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, and Heritage Foundation vice president Genevieve Wood. The general theme of the documentary is that Christianity is under attack thanks to liberal “activist judges.” Bork warns that courts are “teaching the people that religion is evil,” while another conservative attorney claims decisions that go against the Ten Commandments will “destroy the country.”
President Obama’s judicial nominees were being filibustered because they threaten to alter the circuit court’s philosophical balance. The Republican Party has again demonstrated that nullification and obstruction are ready-made weapons to ensure the courts remain dominated by conservatives.
For Republicans to take back the Senate, they’ll need to win six seats. Given Democrats will need to defend 21 seats, compared to just 14 for the GOP, and that seven of those 21 Democratic seats are in states that lean Republican, expect the Christian Right to be the party’s primary water carrier in the midterms.
Rush Limbaugh invoked a rape analogy on Friday to criticize President Obama’s move to support filibuster reform.
On Thursday, Obama expressed his support for Senate Democrats voting to require just 51 votes — as opposed to 60 — approve judicial and executive nominees. Limbaugh compared them to a group of people where the majority decides it is okay to rape women.
"Let’s forget the Senate for a minute," Limbaugh began. He told his listeners to imagine a group of 10 people with six men and four women. "The group has a rule that the men cannot rape the women," he said. "The group also has a rule that says any rule that will be changed must require six votes, of the 10, to change the rule."
The radio host continued,"Every now and then, some lunatic in the group proposes to change the rule to allow women to be raped. But they never were able to get six votes for it. There were always the four women voting against it and they always found two guys.Well, the guy that kept proposing that women be raped finally got tired of it, and he was in the majority and he was one that [said], ‘You know what? We’re going to change the rule. Now all we need is five." And well, ‘you can’t do that.’ ‘Yes we are. We’re the majority. We’re changing the rule.’ And then they vote. Can the women be raped? Well, all it would take then is half of the room. You can change the rule to say three. You can change the rule to say three people want it, it’s going to happen."
"When the majority can change the rules there aren’t any," Limbaugh concluded. He added that Obama was only changing the rule because he can’t get "what he wants democratically."
From the 11.22.2013 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show:
h/t: Huffington Post
Yesterday, after an extended and unbending campaign of obstruction by Senate Republicans, Democrats in the Senate invoked the so-called “nuclear option” and reduced the threshold for confirming most presidential nominees to a simple majority.
Judson Phillips, president of Tea Party Nation, responded by urging Senate Republicans, if they take control of the Senate after next year’s elections, to “summarily reject” “every one of Obama’s appointees for everything” – a policy that would eventually bring federal agencies and courts to a standstill.
Of course, it was Tea Party Republicans’ blanket obstruction President Obama’s nominees that led to the rules change in the first place.
Hey, Judson, the GOP is NOT going to take the Senate back.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
Senate Republicans are standing firm by their threat to block every one of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, insisting on eliminating all three vacant seats on the country’s second most powerful court.
If they follow through, it could spark yet another nuclear showdown over filibuster rules.
The first of Obama’s three picks, Patricia Millett, was narrowly approved Thursday by the Judiciary Committee on a party line vote of 10-8. Every Republican voted against her, although they didn’t criticize her or take issue with her qualifications. They merely argued that the court is under-worked and that nobody ought to fill those seats.
“I have nothing against her but we should not be adding to that bench,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a senior Republican on the committee, told TPM on Thursday afternoon.
Republicans appear to be united behind Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) legislation to reduce the number of active judges on the D.C. Circuit court from 11 to eight. He proposes eliminating one seat, transferring one to the Second Circuit and transferring another to the 11th Circuit. (During the Bush administration, Grassley led a successful effort to reduce the size of the D.C. Circuit court from 12 to 11.)
“It’s way overstaffed,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), another Judiciary Committee member, told TPM on Thursday. “It does not need these judges, and we don’t have the money.”
Democrats flatly dismiss the Grassley effort as a ploy to maintain the strong conservative tilt of the court, which often has the final word over the constitutionality of executive power decisions and has invalidated various executive actions by President Obama, on issues like labor and environmental regulations and recess appointments. They argue that despite the court’s relatively low caseload, it takes extraordinarily complex cases.
“The D.C. Circuit decides some of the most important cases in our nation, with significant impact on the lives of all Americans,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT). “This court must be allowed to operate at full strength, and to that end, I applaud the Judiciary Committee’s approval of Patricia Millett’s nomination today.”
These Senators say Newtown was no big deal. What do you think?
Richard Burr: (202) 224-3154
Dan Coats (R-IN) (202) 224-5623
Mike Crapo (R-ID) (202) 224-6142
Ted Cruz (R-TX): 202-224-5922
Mike Enzi (R-WY): (202) 224-3424
James Inhofe: (202) 224-4721
Ron Johnson (R-WI): (202) 224-5323
Mike Lee (R-UT): 202-224-5444
Mitch McConnell (R-KY): (202) 224-2541
Jerry Moran (R-KS): (202) 224-6521
Pat Roberts (R-KS) (202) 224-4774
James E. Risch (R-ID): 202-224-2752
Marco Rubio (R-FL): 202-224-3041
Rand Paul: 202-224-4343
(graphic via BartCop)
The upcoming debate over confirmation of U.S. Principal Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan to the country’s second highest court is seen by Democrats as a pivotal moment in the interconnected debates over gridlock of judicial nominations and Senate filibuster rules.
Srinivasan, President Obama’s nominee to fill the seat vacated in 2005 by now-Chief Justice John Roberts on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, where Republicans intend to quiz him on his judicial temperament and views on the Constitution.
“We haven’t had a new person on that court since 2006 or 7. Some say it’s a court more important than the Supreme Court of the United States. [Republicans have] blocked … new people coming on that court,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters Tuesday. “We’re going to have this young man — we hope that that can be done very quickly.”
Republicans recently forced Obama to withdraw his prior nominee to the powerful court, Caitlin Halligan, by filibustering her confirmation back in 2011 and again last month. The White House and Democratic leaders view Srinivasan, who has broad support among legal stars across the ideological spectrum, as a test case for whether the GOP will permit any nominee to be confirmed or whether they’d rather maintain the court’s notoriously high vacancy rate in order to preserve its conservative lean.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pushed back on the accusations of GOP obstinacy, arguing that Republicans “have treated the president’s judicial nominees very, very fairly by any objective standard.”
“We just today confirmed the 10th judicial nomination of President Obama’s second term,” he told reporters Tuesday at his weekly briefing. “At this point in President Bush’s second term, he got zero judges. None. With regard to vacancies, about 75 percent of the vacancies that we have in the judiciary don’t even have nominees.”
All of those nominees were confirmed to courts less influential than the D.C. Circuit, where four of 11 active seats are vacant.
Reid has been ratcheting up the threats to weaken the filibuster with 51 votes mid-session if Republicans don’t ease up. If they filibuster Srinivasan — and they’ve offered no hints so far — Reid will face growing pressure to revisit the rules.
h/t: TPM DC
Yesterday’s 13-hour filibuster got Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) the spotlight on CNN, a #filibuster twitter feed, and lots of buzz. Unlike other GOP-led filibusters in recent years, Paul’s supposedly had a purpose other than blocking routine legislation and presidential appointments. In delaying John O. Brennan’s confirmation as head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Paul claimed that he wanted to spark discussion about the president’s policy for using drones on American soil, against American citizens. Now, even more people want him to run for president.
Paul received gushing admiration from progressives and conservatives alike. Atlantic Wire reporter Elspeth Reeve raves, “This Is What a Filibuster Should Be,” Slate magazine’s John Vorhees compares him to the protagonist in the iconic , feel-good political drama, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and Cenk Uygur from The Young Turks tweets, “The Young Turks is literally trying to deliver a pizza to Rand Paul on the Senate floor. #filibuster going for 9 hours now, must be hungry.” Given the reason Paul ended his filibuster after 13 hours on the floor, perhaps Paul’s admirers should have delivered a porta-potty instead.
Paul appeals to some liberals due to their mutual mistrust of drones, support for loosening federal marijuana laws, and some of his stances on civil liberties. Many of us were also struck by the part of his unofficial Tea Party State of the Union response which declared that the U.S. “military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.” We all appreciate a politician who seems to stand by their principles — even when we disagree with them.
But …. WAIT! We progressives need to take a giant step back and remember who Rand Paul really is: An obstructionist, narrow minded teabagger who wants to destroy the government. Because when that warm, fuzzy Mr. -Smith-Goes-To-Washington glow subsides, be afraid, VERY afraid:
1. He’s got a “thing” for Strom Thurmond: Paul concluded his speech with an admiring allusion to the pro-segregation bigot and late Senator Strom Thurmond (D-SC), who once stood on the Senate floor and filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for a record 24 hours and 18 minutes:
“And I would go on for another 12 hours to try to break Strom Thurmond’s record, but I’ve discovered that there are some limits to filibustering, and I’m gonna have to take care of one of those in a few minutes here.”
So why did Paul fall 11 hours and 42 minutes short of beating Thurmond’s record? According to Julie Weiner’s piece in Vanity Fair, Thurmond did take one bathroom break “just once, during a few-minute break to update the Congressional Record.” In addition, he brought provisions, dehydrated himself in a steam room so he wouldn’t need to pee, and read state statutes and other government texts aloud. Back then, men were men, racists were “Racists” with a capital “R,” and farm animals were skeered sh*tless.
2. He opposes the Civil Rights Act: Speaking of the Civil Rights Act (which evolved into the one signed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964), Rand Paul opposes that, too. In an April 17th, 2010 interview with the Courier-Journal’s editorial board in Louisville, KY, Paul responded as follows to a question about whether he would have supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m, um, all in favor of that … [trails off, editor prompts, “But?” and Paul laughs] I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners … I abhor racism, I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anyone from a restaurant … BUT, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I think that absolutely there should be no discrimination in anything that gets public funding.
The part about how “there should be no discrimination in anything that gets public funding” sounds reasonable, until you consider that Paul doesn’t think ANYthing should get public funding. Paul also reduces the Jim Crow era’s myriad injustices to “a bad business decision,” because “in a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior.”
Which brings us to this writer’s essential issue with Libertarianism: If the exercise of one person’s freedom violates the freedom of another, then the bigger, stronger, and richer will always win, and that isn’t a government, that’s a nasty, brutish and Hobbesian existence.
3. … AND he opposes the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA): When NPR’s Robert Siegel interviewed Paul a month later on “All Things Considered,” Paul stuck his foot in his mouth yet AGAIN to reveal that he believes businesses should be allowed to discriminate against disabled folks as well. Though I suppose it technically doesn’t qualify as a “gaffe” when you speak correctly and just happen to have views that are utterly vile:
Right. I think a lot of things could be handled locally. For example, I think that we should try to do everything we can to allow for people with disabilities and handicaps. You know, we do it in our office with wheelchair ramps and things like that. I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who’s handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator. And I think when you get to the solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions.
Yes, it’s expensive to install an elevator or do major remodelling to help customers and employees with special needs, and it can be hard for smaller companies. But it’s a lot harder to live with disabilities day in and day out, and the least we can do is to modify our buildings so everyone can fully participate in our society with a measure of dignity. Plus, it’s strange how conservatives always mention how hard regulations are on “small businesses,” but they never suggest providing seed money to bring these mom and pops into compliance?
4. He opposes Obamacare: Despite the recent ruling from the United States’ conservative-leaning Supreme Court, Paul insists that the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act is unconstitutional. According to Scott Wong from Politico, “Obamacare is wrong for Americans. It will destroy our healthcare system.” Um … as if the current healthcare system hasn’t already destroyed our healthcare system? Paul also apparently thinks that he and his fellow teabagger extremists in the Republican Party are above the laws of our land and can declare things unconstitutional, even after our Supreme Court has had what is supposed to be the final say:
“Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional,” Paul said. “While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right.”
Oh, and Paul’s also one of those conspiracy theory nut-jobs who thinks that Obamacare will “deputize” doctors to spy on patients and snitch on gun owners, so the U.S. government can record names in massive database. Never mind that this theory has been debunked numerous times
5. He opposes gun safety laws: And speaking of guns, guess where Paul stands on gun safety laws? Hint: Back in January, Mollie Reilly from the Huffington Post reported that the Kentucky Senator shared the outline of his pro-gun strategy for challenging President Obama’s executive orders on gun safety with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.:
“Our founding fathers were very concerned about us having separation of powers. They didn’t want to let the president become a king. In this bill, [that he introduced] We will nullify anything the president does that smacks of legislation.”
Because, you know how Paul’s fellow party members clamped down when Obama’s predecessor overstepped his bounds, started an illegal war, imprisoned suspected terrorists without due process or trials, and instituted invasive search procedures in all of our airports … oh wait … they never did that.
On Thursday — sounding all bright, chipper, well-rested, and (presumably) empty-bladdered the morning after his 13-hour screed, Paul appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio show and confided that — although he doesn’t want Obama to have access to lethal weapons that could kill American citizens — he’s carrying around some mysterious lethal weapon himself:
“I’m not talking about people who are carrying a rifle around — that would be half of the South, myself included, and half of my staff,”
Yeah, we don’t need no stinkin’ gun safety laws. And in case you have ANY doubt about how Paul feels about guns and our president, here’s the “STOP Obama’s Gun Ban” email he endorsed with the image of a gun pointed at Barack Obama’s head.
6. He supports international tax dodgers: Rand Paul doesn’t just support privacy rights for potential terrorists, he also wants to help tax dodgers.
7. He opposes labor rights: Ian Milheiser from Think Progress observed on Thursday that “Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) took several minutes out of his lengthy talking filibuster” to praise a 1905 Supreme Court decision for Lochner vs. New York, which rejected a New York state law limiting bakers’ work weeks to 60 hours per week.
This case is almost universally regarded as among THE WORST decisions that ever came from the bench. Even the hardcore conservative Robert Bork — a failed Reagan era Supreme Court nominee – called the decision an “abomination” that “lives in the law as the symbol, indeed the quintessence of judicial usurpation of power.”
8. He’s Anti-Choice: Paul constantly talks about “liberty” and “freedom.” Yet, here’s another @sshole in the GOP who rejects the ultimate freedom for women: The freedom to make reproductive choices, reach their full personal and economic potential, and decide when (if ever) to have children … as men do. And (yawn) his casual dismissal of the formidable, charismatic, and well-qualified Ashley Judd’s potential run against his colleague and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as “articulate” smacks of sexism.
9. He opposes marital equality: So much for the “liberty” Paul’s always going on and on about.
10. He opposes automatic birthright citizenship: So much for Paul’s supposed reverence for the U.S. Constitution and our slave-owning founding fathers. If Paul has his way, babies born on American soil won’t grow up to be U.S. citizens.
While Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) undoubtedly won the DC news cycle yesterday with his twelve-hour long filibuster against CIA Director nominee John Brennan, his opposition to drones is not as all-encompassing as you would think.
The coverage of the filibuster fixated on what appeared to be Paul’s unwavering opposition to the use of unmanned vehicles, commonly called drones. As Paul made clear, though, he was only speaking in opposition to their use in anarrow sense, as part of a targeted killing ordered against a U.S. citizen on American soil.
While the White House has so far ignored calls to declassify the Department of Justice memos laying out the administration’s legal argument, it has explained that drone strikes could not Constitutionally be carried out against an individual who was not an imminent threat, effectively answering Paul’s limited question.
Paul’s opposition to the use of drones began with his concerns about their use for surveillance purposes against U.S. citizens without a warrant. To this effect, Paul introduced in 2012 what he called the “Preserving Freedom From Unwarranted Surveillance Act,” that would ”prohibit the use of drones by the government” without a warrant. The Pentagon has pushed back against the need for this new legislation, arguing that the laws that apply to manned aircraft — such as small airplanes and helicopters — would necessarily apply to unmanned drones as well.
That worry about drones is not universal for Paul, however, as he’s less concerned when it comes to enforcing border security via drone. Laying out his stance on comprehensive immigration reform, Paul published an op-ed in the Washington Times making clear that he felt that border security had to be addressed before a path to citizenship could be enacted:
Border security, including drones, satellite and physical barriers, vigilant deportation of criminals and increased patrols would begin immediately and would be assessed at the end of one year by an investigator general from the Government Accountability Office.
Though he did not make it clear, it can be assumed that Paul was referring to drones of the unarmed variety, rather than advocating launching Hellfire missiles at immigrants attempting to cross the border.
ALERT: Rand Paul ends his almost 13 hour filibuster against John Brennan
They went on and on … and on.
- Strom Thurmond (D) + — 24 hours, 18 minutes, 1957.
- Alfonse D’Amato (R) — 23 hours, 30 minutes, 1986.
- Wayne Morse (I) + — 22 hours, 26 minutes, 1953.
- Robert LaFollette (R) — 18 hours, 23 minutes, 1908.
- William Proxmire (D) — 16 hours, 12 minutes, 1981.
Rand Paul has a ways to go before breaking any of these records.
+ Strom Thurmond was a DEMOCRAT at the time of his longest filibuster. He switched to the GOP in 1964.
+ Wayne Morse was an Independent at the time of his filibuster in 1953. He was a Republican until 1952, then switched to the Democratic Party in 1955.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin signaled Wednesday it may already be time to reopen the debate about the chamber’s rules, given Republicans have attempted to or plan to filibuster three presidential appointments in the month and a half since the chamber approved modest filibuster changes.
At the start of this Congress in January, Senate leaders reached a bipartisan agreement to slightly alter the chamber’s rules in a bid to make the Senate work more efficiently.
“We have tried at the beginning of this Senate session to avoid this kind of filibuster confrontation. The last several years we have had over 400 filibusters — a record number of filibusters in the Senate,” Durbin said.
“I hate to suggest this, but if this is an indication of where we’re headed, we need to revisit the rules again,” the Illinois Democrat said. “We need to go back to it again. I’m sorry to say it because I — was hopeful that a bipartisan approach to dealing with these issues would work.”
“It’s the best thing for this chamber, for the people serving here and the history of this institution,” Durbin said of the bipartisan arrangement. “But if this Caitlin Halligan nomination is an indication of things to come, we’ve got to revisit the rules.”
Halligan’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has been among the most contentious of President Barack Obama’s tenure. In 2011, she failed to garner the 60 votes needed to overcome Republican opposition in 2011, but Obama renominated her this year. Senate Republicans again successfully filibustered Halligan’s nomination Wednesday morning, by a vote of 51-41. Sixty votes were needed.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reiterated his opposition to Halligan on Wednesday morning.
“I’ll be voting against cloture on this nomination. I urge my colleagues to do the same,” McConnell said. “Our decision to do so is not unprecedented. Far from it. Many of our Democratic colleagues who are expressing shock and utter amazement that we would deny cloture on Ms. Halligan’s nomination a second time, felt absolutely no compunction about repeatedly denying cloture on Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the same court.”
In invoking Estrada’s name, McConnell is connecting Halligan to the most famous nominee of the judicial nomination feuds during the George W. Bush administration.
h/t: Roll Call
The Huffington Post reports that Senate Leaders Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reached a deal today to support minor — and in some cases, temporary — changes to the Senate Rules,rather than push through the more robust reforms championed by many Democratic senators. The language of the deal, which is divided into two separate resolutions, is available here and here.
- Republicans: The package creates a new process that gives Republicans the ability to offer two amendments on any bill that cannot be blocked by the Majority Leader, although there is a process by which consensus bills can be streamlined if a substantial number of Republicans consent. More importantly, however, by not including any real limits on the minority’s power to force 60 vote majorities on nearly any bill or nomination, Republicans retain their veto power over matters they wish to block.
- District Judges: Currently, Senate rules allow the minority to force up to 30 hours of wasted time before a single nominee can be confirmed. Because Senate floor time is limited, this leads to many confirmations being delayed for months or killed entirely simply because the Majority Leader cannot afford to budget the time to move the nomination forward. The proposal reduces the amount of time that can be wasted while confirming a federal trial judge to 2 hours, significantly reducing the time cost of such confirmations.
- Sub-Cabinet Officials: Meanwhile, the 30 hours of wasted time on sub-cabinet officials’ confirmation votes is reduced to 8 hours.
- Circuit Judges, Supreme Court Justices & Cabinet Officials: The senior most Senate-confirmed jobs — justices, court of appeals judges and the most powerful executive branch officials — are still subject to 30 hours of delay.
- The Tea Party: The package reduces the number of opportunities to obstruct a bill that is supported by the Minority Leader and at least 7 Republicans, meaning that senators like Rand Paul (R-KY) or Mike Lee (R-UT) will have fewer chances to block progress on matters that everyone but a few Tea Party extremists support.
- The Future: The most significant changes in this package — the reduced hours for nominees and the two free amendments for the minority — sunset in two years and thus will cease to exist in the 114th Congress unless reinstated.