November 23, 2013

There are 242 pending nominees to ram through after the end of the filibuster.

But what are the priorities and the politics of this drastic effort?
Top priorities for the White House include the confirmation in December of Jeh Johnson as secretary of homeland security, Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve, according to a White House official. Obama also hopes for quick confirmation of three nominees to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit....
And then?
“There is no document; there is no blueprint,” said Robert Raben, a prominent Democratic lawyer close to the White House. “In terms of a strategy, everybody’s blinking really hard.”
I guess "blinking really hard" means it was such a big surprise that they're still trying to wake up into the new reality. Or do you think it's blinking in the sense of losing one's nerve? They looked courageous, but then they blinked?

It would make more sense to say that the strategy must be to begin with the top priorities while continually observing the responses from the GOP and from the American people and developing the strategy as thing proceed. All along, the Democrats should be promoting their brand as the nominees themselves are presented as sound and highly competent, the Republicans attacks are made to seem scurrilous, and the people are manipulated into feeling as though the work of the government is going forward in a proper and beneficial way. The procedure should be used to distract attention from other less pleasant things — notably the Obamacare debacle (which itself might already be working to keep us from looking at even more unsettling matters).

If the Democrats can use this new confirmation process to good effect and they get lucky with a few Republicans looking arguably stupid or mean (not a bad bet), then more nominees can be advanced, perhaps even more advantageously as the moves of the game are learned and perfected.

How will Republicans play the game? They've already resisted confirming a bunch of "low-profile nominees by unanimous consent, as is customary in the Senate before an extended break." They can also absent themselves from committees so there's no quorum, which is needed to move the nominations to the floor. There's the "blue slip" procedure requiring each judicial nominee to get approval by both of their home state Senators. On the Senate floor, there can be up to 30 hours of debate time for every appeals court and Cabinet-level nominee and 8 hours for other nominees. I can picture Ted Cruz finding 30 hours worth of things to say about any Obama judicial nominee. If it's done well, it could help Republicans, but the Democrats and the media will call everything obstructionist and cherry-pick anything to denounce as mean, stupid, evil, etc.
Republicans have not indicated which delaying tactics, if any, they might employ, but they signaled a desire to seek revenge after Thursday’s vote. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Democrats will “have trouble in a lot of areas, because there’s going to be a lot of anger.”...

On nominations, Raben said, the change in filibuster rules means that political fights are more likely to take place at the committee level. “Background investigations, courtesy visits, hearings and committee markups around nominees take on heightened importance because once it gets to the floor, absent a horrific fact about a nominee where significant numbers of the majority won’t defend it, it’s only a matter of time,” Raben said.
It's also only a matter of time until next year's elections, and we're already more or less in campaign mode. 30 (or even 8) hours is a lot of debate when you are talking about 242 nominees. And as the nasty, fired-up game proceeds, won't Republicans refine their moves? Pick which debates you want on the floor.
Obama’s aides said the president hopes the change in filibuster rules will get business back to usual, allowing him to staff his administration and fill the federal judiciary with nominees of his choosing without delay.
Obama and hope, a dreary old theme, newly hollowed out.

32 comments:

Tom said...

What the GOP needs to do is conduct deep research on all these nominees. Many of then are radicals and supportive of big labor agendas - similar to Jordan Barab at OSHA. Now, there will be no hiding by the senate democrats when one of these radicals get appointed. The GOP must be willing to tie these radicals directly to the democrat senators who vote for for confirmation. The old filibuster rules protected the party in power as much as the minority. The party in power could always blame the minority for inaction. No more. Now the accountability is more direct.

EDH said...

If the Republicans are to draw a line in the sand it should be with respect to life-time time appointments.

It's hard to argue a president shouldn't have the people he wants to run his administration.

But independents and others are more likely to see the utility of a super majority in the case of life-time appointees, particularly to the federal bench.

Ann Althouse said...

The GOP should not simply (or even mostly) attack the nominees. It should attack the President and the Democratic Senators for selecting these individuals.

Lots of law people are just fine speaking in their own voices as lawyers and academics, but they shouldn't be offered judicial positions unless they have judicial temperament. I don't consider myself judicial material, as I have always said, since the 1980s. I like to express my own ideas about things. You have to be very neutral and disciplined to be a judge. It's like becoming a priest.

Many of these nominees are good people, but the attack should be on those who are selecting them a judges and the goal should be regaining the majority in the Senate.

There are so many great moves to be made, and I am betting Ted Cruz is a genius at figuring out what they are and executing them.

I will be an attentive spectator.

Of everything.

Including any eclipsing of the greater problems that are hurting Americans.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I am betting Ted Cruz is not a genius.

It's a mistake to think that the portion of the general population in play for the next election will give on whit about appointments to the lower courts.

Now, if some kook were to get confirmed and act on their kookiness, that could be used as an issue.

Michael said...

These judges may find themselves very busy in the future trying to unwind the laws that Republicans can cram down with a bare majority. Low and permanent capital gains? Closed Dept of Educatin? No corporate taxes? Reduced welfare benefits? Social Security kicking in at 70. Etc

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Drill SGT said...

They can also absent themselves from committees so there's no quorum, which is needed to move the nominations to the floor. There's the "blue slip" procedure requiring each judicial nominee to get approval by both of their home state Senators.

all those are Senate rules, subject to being changed. Having nuked the filibuster, why not double down with Fusion bombs?

I don't like it, but they already did the unthinkable...

Lem said...

Carpetbag the Hammer to the Senate floor.

garage mahal said...

They can also absent themselves from committees so there's no quorum, which is needed to move the nominations to the floor.

Fleabaggers!

Zach said...

Obama's career in general and Presidency in particular is a perfect example of the "More Power" fallacy.

Dilemma: I would like to do X, but can't, because of interceding factor Y.

Solution: More Power!

Except more power isn't really a solution, because the real problem is that many people didn't want to do X in the first place.

I predict that after a flurry of early votes, some magical factor will arise which will keep the most extremist nominees bottled up for a while. Not because Republicans want that -- but because Democrats do. It's much easier to get people riled up about some extremist ideologue you've never heard of who's getting a lifetime appointment than it is to get people excited about your side filling a vacant slot on an appeals court. We're going into an election, remember, and there are a lot of vulnerable Democrats.

Zach said...

The other issue is that each individual Democrat has greatly decreased his own individual power. Suddenly, instead of being an important member of every coalition that will successfully confirm a nomination, their own individual objections can easily be dispensed with unless they can assemble a blocking coalition of 5 Democrats.

So if the President would like to nominate Larry Summers to be Fed Chairman and you think that maybe that isn't the best position for an egomaniac, guess what! You're now in open conflict with the Obama administration.

Drago said...

garage: "Fleabaggers!"

Uh, they haven't actually done a "fleeing" so why are you calling them that?

I'll bet you never called the actual dem flee-ers any such name. The dems actually did run away and in more than 1 state.

But then again, when you are having such great success with healthcare and the economy, what else can you do but project onto republicans what the dems have been doing.

BTW, today's latest and greatest obama success number is the following:

Another 3/4's of a million Americans have dropped out of the labor force!!!

Hooray garage! Hooray obama!

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

Snip: "The civilian labor force was down by 720,000 in October."

The good news? Even more folks qualify for free stuff like obamaphones!

Drago said...

Oh, I almost forgot: "Forward!!"

William said...

This will have lots and lots of unintended consequences. Probably less than the First World War, but lots and lots. Harry Reid didn't show much loyalty to the institution of the Senate and its traditions.

B said...

William said...This will have lots and lots of unintended consequences.

If the senate turns to a republican majority in the 2014 election the lameduck senate will put the old filibuster rules back in force before the new senators are inaugurated.

mccullough said...

They need to tie any nominee to an issue that helps them get elected in races. One of Obama's appellate nominees is an anti-gun nut. So the pro-gun nut states like WV and Montana with retiring Dem senators opening seats in 2014 need to know about Dem approval of nominees who despise what these voters like. The EPA nominee wants to shut down West Virginia's coal industry.

If Republicans cannot take the seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia, Louisiana, and North Carolina, then they should dissolve the party. All goals should be on winning those seats.

Hyphenated American said...

"If the senate turns to a republican majority in the 2014 election the lameduck senate will put the old filibuster rules back in force before the new senators are inaugurated."

If republicans are not stupid and cowardly, they will then remove filibuster again, and say that Harry Reid broke it, and there is no point crying about spilled milk. And if the dems object, they should say that the only way to bring back the filibuster is to have all obama's appointees during this time to resign, and declare all the rules and regulations null and void. It's called status who ante, if I remember correctly.

Hyphenated American said...

Status quo ante, I meant. I hate typing on the iPad.

Hyphenated American said...

A big question. Will the liberals use this opportunity to abolish filibuster rules for international treaties and thus destroy our constitution? Don't forget that international treaties have advantage over our laws.

Harold said...

"Michael said...
These judges may find themselves very busy in the future trying to unwind the laws that Republicans can cram down with a bare majority. Low and permanent capital gains? Closed Dept of Educatin? No corporate taxes? Reduced welfare benefits? Social Security kicking in at 70. Etc"

Judges would have to virtually ignore the Constitution to rule on these items you mention. But since we can count on Obamas judge appointees to have the same respect for the Constitution he does, I'm sure they'll manage.

BTW, can you name even one person the Dept of Educatin has ever educated? Every educator I have talked to mentions them as an obstacle or a hindrance to educational administration, with absolutely nothing to actually do with educating anyone. Eliminating that particular department would not result in one less person in the United States receiving an education.

Clyde said...

At this point, the Democrats are "in for a penny, in for a pound." They have nothing to lose by trying to ram every nominee through, no matter how extreme he or she might be. They're going to get the same amount of outrage for violating centuries of tradition at this point. It should be remembered, however, that pendulums swing both ways. When it swings back, they shouldn't come crying to the American people for sympathy when the Republicans pay them back in kind.

Michael K said...

Why would GOP Senators bother to vote ? For the most extreme appointments, it should be like Obamacare.

clint said...

Drago said... "Another 3/4's of a million Americans have dropped out of the labor force!!!"

I prefer to say they've lost all Hope of finding a job.

n.n said...

Democrats are largely successful because they are capable of reconciling diametrically opposed agendas. Republicans need to focus on the issues which unite Democrats in common cause: money, sex, and ego, but mostly money. The Democratic base has a common desire for a quick fix, which has a progressive cost.

Sam's Hideout said...

I suspect a large part of the relative collegiality of the Senate was due to the filibuster rules which made it very hard for a majority party to push legislation without cooperation from the minority, whereas in the House the majority can run roughshod over the minority. For a few years, the Democrats had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, then they lost it when Brown was surprisingly elected. Apparently the taste of power has gone to their heads, perhaps the Senate will become more partisan like the House...

Drago said...

clint: "I prefer to say they've lost all Hope of finding a job."

Thankfully we have not yet reached the point where the simple desire to work is labeled as "racist" by garage and his pals.

Gahrie said...

yet

Joe said...

A big advantage of power sharing is that it reduces party liability when things go wrong. The Democrats will now "own" these nominees just like they "own" Obamacare. If one of the nominees goes wrong, there is no place to hide.

Joe said...

Democrats are largely successful because they are capable of [ignoring] diametrically opposed agendas in the interest of maintaining and increasing centralized power.

Fixed that for you.

Carnifex said...

And still jackasses like Mclame, Grahmnesty, Rubio, Christie, and Boner think it's GOOD to work with these guys.

The D's raped the R's in the Senate and they ask "Please Sir, may I have another?"

Fuck the GOP too!

damikesc said...

The GOP should not simply (or even mostly) attack the nominees. It should attack the President and the Democratic Senators for selecting these individuals.

They shouldn't attack them at all in the hearings. That they are incompetent is already established since they had to kill the Senate to get them through.

HOWEVER, every single asinine decision they make should be highlighted and every single Democrat who voted to kill the filibuster should be tied to it.

Any Republican Senator who does anything with a Democrat should be primaried. They dropped the nuke. You don't really kiss and make up.

Mitch H. said...

I have to wonder if they're "blinking real hard" because, expecting that radical or extreme or unpalatable nominations would never make it to the floor, they haven't been throwing sops to their more crazed client groups by putting forward "forlorn hope" nominations that they never intended to actually make it through the process which was safely (if hopelessly) broken. Then Reid pulled the trigger, and suddenly their box-checking "proud to be nominated" nominations might actually have a chance - and there's some real eye-rolling lunatic-fringe maniacs in the queue that they didn't actually want in office.