Elections have consequences, politicians like to remind us, usually after a big win. Within that simple phrase lies an implicit threat to those who find themselves outside looking in at the corridors of power: You’re going to need to get used to a new way of doing business.
Last week’s election saw Republicans retake control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and although they made inroads in the Senate, Republicans fell short of achieving a 51-vote majority. Thanks in part to Joe Manchin’s victory in West Virginia, Democrats still hold 53 seats in the Senate (including two independents who caucus with the Dems).
So what effect will the election have on President Obama’s judicial nominees?
The short answer: Probably not much.
Democrats had already lost their 60-seat super majority that, at least in theory, enabled them to easily overcome any threat of a GOP filibuster. Over the past two years, Republicans have proved very adept at preventing nominees from getting up and down votes, as have Democrats in the past when they were in the minority.
Just before the election, President Obama once again made reconciliatory overtures at Congressional Republicans in his weekly address. Obama was specifically calling on leaders to focus on the economy as the main issue confronting Americans, but I think his remarks can apply as well to confirming nominees.
On these issues – issues that will determine our success or failure in this new century – I believe it’s the fundamental responsibility of all who hold elective office to seek out common ground. It may not always be easy to find agreement; at times we’ll have legitimate philosophical differences. And it may not always be the best politics. But it is the right thing to do for our country.
That’s why I found the recent comments by the top two Republican in Congress so troubling. The Republican leader of the House actually said that “this is not the time for compromise.” And the Republican leader of the Senate said his main goal after this election is simply to win the next one.
I know that we’re in the final days of a campaign. So it’s not surprising that we’re seeing this heated rhetoric. That’s politics. But when the ballots are cast and the voting is done, we need to put this kind of partisanship aside – win, lose, or draw.
In the end, it comes down to a simple choice. We can spend the next two years arguing with one another, trapped in stale debates, mired in gridlock, unable to make progress in solving the serious problems facing our country.
So would Bloomberg’s Ann Woolner, who wrote in a column published earlier this week that said that Republican gains in the Senate would make it easier for the GOP to block Obama’s nominees:
Pushing the judiciary rightward has been a staple of Republican campaigns for decades.
Part of the strategy, used by both parties, is to block judicial candidates named by a president of the opposite party. This became easier last week for Republicans, who were already doing quite well at it.
Republicans have managed to stall more than a score of President Obama’s nominees to the bench so far, although they number only 41 senators, barely enough to keep a filibuster going.
With six more Republican senators narrowing the gap in January, the minority party in the Senate will have more muscle to use against the president’s choices.
This matters a lot. Whether the issue is health care, immigration or regulation, federal judges will decide which provisions are constitutional and which ones must die.
Republicans have been loading the federal bench with as many conservatives as they can, while blocking as many Democratic nominees as possible.
Yes, I said Democratic nominees instead of liberal. The current list of 23 stalled Obama nominees includes 17 approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee without a whiff of controversy or even a no vote against them.