The Spectacle Blog

The Nuclear Option: A Return to the Founders?

By on 11.21.13 | 7:31PM

Conservatives have been frothing at the mouth today about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's use of the "Nuclear Option" to change the Senate rules and allow confirmation of presidential nominees (other than Supreme Court justices) by simple majority votes.

I wrote about Reid's actions earlier today, terming them "reprehensible," but I'd like to clarify:

What is reprehensible is the naked hypocrisy of Reid and of President Obama versus their views eight years ago when they happened to be in the Senate minority, under a Republican president. I also disapprove of changing Senate rules mid-session, though nothing absolutely requires rules to be changed at the beginning of a session.

But, and I know many opponents of Obama won't love my saying this, the use of the filibuster to block nominees has gotten out of control.

The founders did not intend "advice and consent" to make the Senate co-equal with the president regarding who got to fill positions where the president makes an appointment.

As I wrote in a letter published by the New York Times in 2005, and which applies no matter which party is in the majority, "We have presidential elections for a reason. The victor has the right, indeed the responsibility, to nominate judges who at least roughly agree with the president's political views (assuming those views are constitutional)."

Further, "documents by our founders make it clear that (advice and consent) is simply a check on the president to ensure that he does not nominate out of nepotism, cronyism or for another unethical reason."

Barack Obama won re-election. I don't like it but nobody can change the fact. And sometimes people get the government they deserve.

One of the main prerogatives of the president is to nominate whom he chooses, again subject to the few limitations described above.

In the sense of returning to the functioning of the Senate in a way the Founders intended, it is hard to be too upset with what happened today.

The way it was done is another story, and Democrats should remember today when Republicans occupy the White House and the Senate majority. Their brave words about the "rights of the minority" will ring even more hollow than usual.

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