ICYMI: Major Papers Criticize Senate GOP Obstruction & Call for Senate Reform

N.Y. Times and L.A. Times Call for Filibuster Reform, While Washington Post Calls Out GOP “Transparently Self-Serving” Motivations Behind Latest Obstruction


Washington, DC – Yesterday, Republicans filibustered the nomination of Patricia Millett, the first of three nominees to fill existing vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as well as the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

In response, the Fix the Senate Now coalition noted that functional government and an operational U.S. Senate cannot be an occasional principle. Democrats must be prepared to change the Senate rules should Republicans continue to block these qualified nominees from receiving an up-or-down vote.

Leading newspaper editorial pages agree, criticizing the Republicans obstruction and, in the case of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, urging Senate Democrats to reform the Senate’s rules to prevent such meritless obstruction:

  • New York Times Editorial, “The Politics of Petulance”: “Republicans seem not to accept that Mr. Obama’s job includes nominating judges to the federal appeals courts. Absent extraordinary circumstances, those nominees should get up-or-down votes on their merits, as the majority of Mr. Bush’s D.C. Circuit nominees did … We have called for an end to filibusters of judicial nominations, and for the Senate to change its rules to require votes on all judicial and executive nominees within 90 days. The filibuster has at times been an important tool for the minority to block extremist nominees. Its current abuse, however, is out of control. Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, warned before the vote Thursday that ‘if Republican senators are going to hold nominations hostage without consideration of their individual merit, drastic measures may be warranted.’ It is well past time to make good on that threat, and force the Senate to do its job.”
  • Los Angeles Times, Editorial: “Returning to the Bad Old Days of the Filibuster”: “This summer, Senate Democrats seemed poised to invoke the ‘nuclear option’ to prevent Republicans from filibustering important Obama administration nominees. Majority Leader Harry Reid drew back at the last minute when Republicans allowed a handful of nominees to be confirmed on up-or-down votes. ‘We have a new start for this body, and I feel very comfortable with it,’ Reid said. Reid obviously spoke too soon. On Thursday, Senate Republicans were up to their old tricks, blocking votes on two nominees, one of them a respected Washington lawyer whom the president would like to put on the federal appeals court in Washington. It's past time for Senate Democrats to go nuclear — Washington-speak for a parliamentary maneuver in which the vice president (who serves as president of the Senate) would rule that a simple majority vote is sufficient to end debate on a nomination. This page supported the nuclear option when it was under consideration by the Republican-controlled Senate at a time when Democrats were filibustering President George W. Bush's nominees. Now Republicans are the obstructionists, even when they have no quarrel with a nominee's qualifications … In the "Peanuts" comic strip, Charlie Brown never realized that Lucy couldn't be trusted when she promised not to pull the football away at the last minute. We hope Harry Reid is quicker on the uptake and will recognize that a ‘new start’ for the Senate requires triggering the nuclear option.

Additionally, while not endorsing filibuster reform, the Washington Post yesterday criticized Senate Republicans’ “transparently self-serving” motivations behind the latest nominee obstruction:

  • Washington Post Editorial, “Stripping a Court as a Political Ploy”: instead of being judged on her merits, Ms. Millett may well end up a victim of a GOP campaign against allowing any more of Mr. Obama’s nominees onto the D.C. Circuit. Though Republicans pushed to fill its 11 seats when George W. Bush was president, they now argue that it doesn’t need more than its current eight judges, and that Mr. Obama is trying to ‘pack’ the court. Some have backed a bill from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) that would strip the court of its vacancies rather than consider the president’s duly appointed picks to fill them … These moves are transparently self-serving, and would encourage similar behavior by Democrats against Republican presidents. The recent history of the confirmation process is a steady descent into unreasonable partisanship; if acted upon, the Republicans’ position would be another step down.”

 or more information or to interview leaders from the Fix the Senate Now coalition, contact Michael Earls at media@fixthesenatenow.org