By the fall of 2013, the Senate Republicans’ filibuster abuses had reached a level unseen in American history. The GOP minority declared that it would simply refuse to consider any judicial nominee, no matter how qualified, for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals – and they would maintain this position until 2017 at the earliest.
Left with no choice, Senate Democrats executed the so-called “nuclear option,” restoring the chamber’s traditional rules that allowed the Senate majority to confirm federal judges.
And at the time, Charles Krauthammer, one of the most influential Republican pundits in the nation, was apoplectic. Less than a week after the change, the columnist said Democrats were responsible for “lawlessness,” the “breakdown of political norms,” a “disgraceful violation of more than two centuries of precedent,” and creating an institution that “effectively has no rules.”
This morning, Krauthammer adopted an entirely new posture, which just happens to be the exact opposite of the one from November 2013.
I’ve been radicalized. By Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Goodbye moderation and sweet reason. No more clinging to constitutional and procedural restraint. It’s time to go nuclear. […][T]here is a way out for the GOP. Go bold. Go nuclear. Abolish the filibuster. Pass the bill and send it to the president.
Krauthammer realizes that he’s contradicting himself, but rationalizes the reversal. “Reid went first,” he argues. “Time for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to finish the job. Push the button. Abolish the filibuster.”
It appears Krauthammer has rediscovered his affinity for “lawlessness” and the “breakdown of political norms.” This is fine, he insists, because the columnist can blame Democrats: “Abolish the filibuster and challenge the president. And when asked, ‘How can you do such a thing?’ tell them to ask Harry Reid.”
Of course, the larger point is that Krauthammer isn’t the only Republican thinking along these lines.
The impetus for the GOP’s reversal – or to use Krauthammer’s phrase, the abandonment of “sweet reason” – is the bizarre fight over funding the Department of Homeland Security. House Republicans, picking a fight they knew in advance they’d lose, thought it wise to hold DHS hostage. Allow Republicans to destroy President Obama’s popular immigration policy or they would shut down much of the department’s operations.
As expected, Democrats balked, the ridiculous plan fell short of the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, and Republicans are once again confronted with the prospect of shooting their hostage (and hurting the country, on purpose, in the process).
Krauthammer wants his party to execute the Nuclear Option Part II, allowing the Republican-led Senate to pass the absurd House bill, at which point the president would veto the bill and we’d be right back where we are now. Under this gambit, Republicans would eliminate the filibuster in exchange for nothing except a slightly different talking point, blaming the president they hate, instead of the Senate minority they hate.
More to the point, however, Krauthammer’s silly request has already been endorsed by a wide variety of House Republicans, all of whom are outraged that the rascally Senate Democratic minority is acting exactly the same way the GOP minority acted over the last eight years. They, too, believe it’s time for the filibuster to disappear.
As we discussed last week, let’s not overlook the fact that these Republicans are already flipping out over a Democratic filibuster just a month and a half into the new Congress.
I shudder to think how hysterical far-right partisans will be, say, a year from now.