Editorials and Opinion
Editorial: Democrats bust the filibuster, and good for them; Senate Democrats were right in moving to end the obstruction of presidential nominees. (Los Angeles Times, 11/22/13)
"The inside-the-Beltway question about Thursday's "explosion" is whether the Republicans had it coming. They did. After Reid drew back from the nuclear option in July in exchange for Republican acquiescence in the confirmation of some executive branch nominees, the GOP leadership decided to filibuster three more of President Obama's nominees, this time to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.... Unable to quarrel with the nominees' stellar credentials, Republicans opposed them on the pretext that the D.C. Circuit was underworked and didn't need more judges. One by one, Obama's choices were denied the 60 votes needed for their nominations to proceed."
Editorial: Filibuster reform was long overdue (Tennessean, 11/21/13)
"Pushed again to the brink by a recalcitrant GOP minority bent on blocking three nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Majority Leader Harry Reid said he’d had enough."
Editorial: A needed reform to rein in rampant filibuster abuse (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 11/21/13)
"For too long, abuse of the filibuster has blocked qualified public servants from important posts and made a mockery of the Senate’s constitutional role on presidential nominations.... The final straw was Republicans blocking three Obama nominees in the last three weeks to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It rules on disputes over actions by the White House and federal agencies, and is also often a stepping stone for Supreme Court justices. GOP senators claimed that the D.C. court’s workload didn’t justify adding judges, but by keeping the three seats vacant, they preserved the court’s majority of Republican nominees. By delaying judicial nominees, Republicans have delayed justice in overburdened federal courts in California and across the country. According to a count this week, there are 75 vacancies in U.S. district courts, a full 11 percent of all seats.... Republicans can cry foul all they want about what happened Thursday. By exploiting the filibuster far beyond what is reasonable, they only have themselves to blame."
Editorial: The Post’s View; After filibuster vote, both parties will face nasty ‘nuclear’ fallout (Washington Post, 11/21/13)
"Fed up with Republicans repeatedly blocking President Obama’s judicial nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Democrats triggered the so-called “nuclear option.”... The Democratic majority was justified in its grievance but not in its rash action. Republicans had made increasing use of the filibuster to block presidential appointments for which a majority, but not the required 60 votes, could be mustered. Most recently,they rejected three of Mr. Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit without even considering their merits. Their motivation was to prevent the president from making the court more liberal. Their pretext was that the court is under-worked. As we wrote previously, their motivation was unjustified; an elected president is entitled to nominate judges who, if qualified, should be confirmed. Their rationale, if genuine, should have been satisfied by changing the size of the court in the next presidential term."
Wonkbook: Three reasons filibuster reform might actually happen today (Washington Post, 11/21/13)
Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas: "in pure "getting-things-done" terms, Democrats are faced with a choice: keep the filibuster and get nothing done. Change the filibuster and get nothing done aside from staffing the federal government and filling a huge number of judicial vacancies with lifetime appointments....Senate Democrats just watched Republicans mount a suicide mission to shut down the government. Their confidence that Republicans will treat the upper chamber's rules with reverence is low, to say the least.... Republicans filibustered more judges and executive-branch nominees. And the pride top Democrats took in their deal to avert filibuster reform has turned to anger that Republicans made them look like trusting fools."
Democrats justifiably invoke ‘nuclear option,’ fully aware of the peril ahead (Dallas Morning News, 11/21/13)
By Tod Robberson / Editorial Writer: "the abuse had reached such ridiculous proportions in recent years that it had to be stopped. I’m glad the Senate exploded the ‘nuclear option’ today ... All this nuclear option vote does is transfer the burden of persuasion. Instead of the Democrats having to lure over a handful of GOP senators in order to win a two-thirds vote, it’s now the Republicans who will have to do the persuading. And that’s the way it should be.... If the GOP members of the Senate hadn’t so badly abused their filibuster authority, it never would have come to this point."
Editorial: Democracy Returns to the Senate (New York Times, 11/21/13)
"Mr. Reid, along with all but three Senate Democrats, was pushed to act by the Republicans’ refusal to allow any appointments to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, just because they wanted to keep a conservative majority on that important court. That move was as outrageous as the tactic they used earlier this year to try to cripple the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (which they despise) by blocking all appointments to those agencies. That obstruction was removed in July when Mr. Reid threatened to end the filibuster and Republicans backed down. The recent blockade of judges to the D.C. appellate court was the last straw."
Here's Why Today's Filibuster Rule Change is a Big Deal: (The White House, 11/21/13)
White House blog by Lindsay Holst: "half of all filibusters waged against nominations in our country's history have been waged under President Obama. And of the 23 district court nominees that have been filibustered in U.S. History, 20 of them have been Obama nominees."
EDITORIAL: Our View: Senate leaders had little choice but to start over (Star Press [Muncie, IN], 11/21/13)
"On Tuesday, the Senate voted to go “nuclear,” to eliminate the use of the filibuster against most presidential nominees. That means Muncie Northside High School graduate Robert Wilkins and two other nominees can win a Senate vote to take a seat as a U.S. circuit judge on the 11-seat U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Colombia.... It’s a change that, reluctantly, was necessary because the nation’s business has been deadlocked for far too long. ... Sen. Dan Coats issued a statement likening the vote to a decoy over the botched ObamaCare rollout.... He’s got that wrong. The change was necessary because judicial and other appointments were not receiving an up or down vote. Case in point: There was no hint that Wilkins and the other two nominees to the DC court, Patricia Millett and Cornelia “Nina” Pillard were unsuitable to sit on the court. There was no controversy. There was no scandal. Some in the GOP camp claimed the caseload of the court did not warrant adding three judges to make a full roster. That’s an argument that bears no weight. Wilkins and the others were opposed simply because President Obama had appointed them."
EDITORIAL: Pushed to choose (Akron Beacon Journal [OH], 11/21/13)
"Republicans have filibustered three highly qualified and much respected nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Republicans have resorted to accusing the president of seeking to “pack” the court. No, he is filling vacancies, albeit his own vetting proceeding too slowly.
Republicans have argued the court doesn’t have enough work for additional judges. They overlook the court’s unique role in view of the significance and complexity of its cases. Anyway, there is an independent process for determining the size of courts. It doesn’t include a partisan end-run. A measure of how Republicans have escalated the abuse of the filibuster is the fate of Mel Watt,"
Editorial: Good riddance to a strategy for obstruction (Bakersfield Californian [CA], 11/21/13)
"The Senate's Democratic majority voted Thursday to eliminate the obstruction strategy, at least for federal judicial nominations and executive-office appointments. The Senate can now take up confirmation votes by a simple majority ... The move helps Democrats now by allowing them to start clearing the longstanding backlog of judicial vacancies, ... the filibuster has been used more in recent years than in any period since its first use in 1837 -- "just to gum up the works," as Obama put it. "
Filibuster Reaction: The vote that will change America (National Constitution Center's Constitution Daily, 11/21/13)
Doug Kendall and Tom Donnelly: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Democratic colleagues finally “went nuclear,” changing the Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster for executive branch appointees and all judicial appointees except those to the Supreme Court.... Let’s start with Patricia Millett – one of the President’s three recent D.C. Circuit nominees, currently being blocked in the Senate by a Republican filibuster. Prior to the rules change, 60 votes in the Senate were needed to overcome a Republican filibuster and secure Millett’s confirmation. Of course, that means that a small minority of the Senate – a mere 41 Senators – could block her. And, indeed, they did block her. Now, with this rules change, the President only needs a simple majority – really, 50 votes in the Senate, with Vice President Biden casting any necessary tie-breaking votes."
Reid goes nuclear — now bring on the liberal activist judges! Now that they nuked the judicial filibuster, Democrats must exercise their new power and build a progressive bench (Salon.com, 11/21/13)
Brian Beutler: "Democrats need to think beyond the three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that ultimately forced the issue. They should first understand that the change was inevitable. ... Obama and Dems can fill every vacancy on the federal bench before their control of the Senate, or his presidency, comes to an end. But it also means liberals ought to now devote more resources toward creating a real progressive counterweight to the conservative legal establishment. Over the course of several decades, the right has nurtured what essentially amounts to a shadow judiciary, composed of conservative legal scholars who disagree, juridically and ideologically, with the post-New Deal consensus. Republican presidents draw upon this class of activists to fill judicial vacancies"
Mercury News editorial: Senate shows courage in changing filibuster rules (San Jose Mercury News [CA] , 11/21/13)
"Filibusters have prevented votes on a series of judicial nominees, leaving vacancies on the bench all over the country. Businesses and individuals needing action by the federal courts have been harmed. It came to a head Thursday after Republicans once again blocked Obama's picks to fill three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, one of the more influential appeals courts in the nation. The court currently has eight judges -- four Republicans and four Democrats -- and GOP leaders wanted to keep a balance. But presidents always get to nominate judges, and they choose primarily from their own party. Obama's choices are highly qualified. That is usually the standard for Senate confirmation of all but unusually controversial picks, or of course Supreme Court nominees."
Editorial: Going nuclear in the Senate (Anniston Star [AL] , 11/21/13)
"Senate Democrats said they altered the rules to overcome stalling tactics of Republicans, who have taken extraordinary steps to block President Barack Obama’s nominees, both in the courts and among other appointments made by the chief executive.... Republicans’ use of these objections has reached a high-water mark in the Obama era."
Three More Reforms That Will Still Be Needed To Prevent Republican Obstruction In The Senate (Think Progress, 11/21/13)
Ian Millhiser: "“Blue Slips” The immediate impact of Thursday’s rule change is that nearly every nomination that reaches the Senate floor can be confirmed by a simple majority vote ,,, The problem for many nominees or potential nominees, however, is that the rules allow just one Senator to prevent ... judicial nominees from their own state. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that courts of appeals judges, who typically preside over cases from multiple states, are considered to be tied to a particular state. ... As Senate Judiciary Chair, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has the power to abolish this practice — known as the “blue slip” rule. Indeed, in 2003, then-Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT)abandoned the blue slip rule in favor of a looser standard that allowed judicial nominations to move forward “provided that the Administration  engaged in pre-nomination consultation with both of the home-state Senators.”:
Democrats were forced to go ‘nuclear’ at last (Washington Post, 11/21/13)
Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer: "In the past month, Republicans used the filibuster to block three of President Obama’s nominees to serve on the 11-seat Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, often described as the second most powerful court in the land.
There was no suggestion that any of the nominees — Patricia Millett, Cornelia “Nina” Pillard and Robert L. Wilkins — was in any way unqualified to sit on the court. ... There is a stated reason, an ideological reason and a real reason for this pattern of GOP intransigence, each more bogus than the last. The stated reason is that the judges are not needed because the understaffed court is managing to handle its workload. This is a smoke screen, not an argument. There was no such attempt to set ad hoc standards of jurisprudential productivity when George W. Bush was choosing the nominees. The ideological reason is that, without the three nominees, the court is balanced: Four of its judges are Republican appointees, four are Democratic appointees. Obama, by naming these judges, is allegedly trying to “pack” the court with liberals. But this view, which the GOP can’t be serious about, is a nullification of the way the system is supposed to work. The three seats on the court are vacant. The president who happens to be in office when vacancies arise gets to name qualified replacements, which Obama has done. If Republicans want to appoint more judges, they should win more presidential elections. The real reason is that the Republican political strategy for working with Obama is not to work with him at all. Whatever Obama favors, the GOP opposes. Simple as that."
Nuking the Filibuster Is Great. Sanctimonious Beltway Types Just Won't Admit It. (The New Republic, 11/21/13)
ALEC MACGILLIS: "That, after all, is what set this judicial nomination fight apart from those before it: Republicans’ striking opennness in declaring that they were blocking President Obama’s three judicial nominees not out of any plaint with their qualifications or ideology, but simply because they did not want to give Democrats a majority of appointees on that D.C. appeals bench, which rules on so many key regulatory issues, from the new health care law to carbon emissions standards.... Some Senate Republicans and conservatives made a half-hearted attempt to couch their blockage of the nominees as a budget matter, arguing that the court’s workload didn’t justify any more judges. But in general, they were as blunt as could be in their motivation: they simply were not going to allow Obama and the Democrats to reap one of the age-old benefits of winning two elections in a row, being able to appoint judges of their choosing to the federal courts and thereby tilt their makeup slightly in their favor. “They want to control the court so it will advance the president’s agenda,” said Mitch McConnell in explaining why Republicans would do everything they could do prevent that control—as if the Democrats’ desire for such influence in the third branch of government was somehow untoward or authoritarian (indeed, they went so far as to equate Obama's filling established slots on the court with Franklin Roosevelt's attempted packing of the Supreme Court by adding extra seats to it."
The D.C. Distraction: Judicial Vacancies Beyond The D.C. Circuit (Above the Law, 11/21/13)
Tamara Tabo: "nationwide the federal bench is functioning with about a ten-percent absence of active judges. The Ninth Circuit has 17 open judgeships. The Eleventh Circuit has a whopping 13 current vacancies, with only four pending nominations to fill those seats. Notice not only the number of vacancies, but the lengths of time many of those vacancies have remained open.... The Senate and the president are right that we ought to be concerned about federal judicial vacancies."
Twelve Republicans Who Broke Their Pledge To Oppose Judicial Filibusters (People For blog, 11/21/13)
Brian Tashman: "just a few years ago, many of the very same Republicans who are today filibustering President Obama’s nominees willy-nilly were vowing that they would never, ever filibuster judicial nominees. Some even declared that judicial filibusters were unconstitutional and un-American. But that was before there was a Democrat in the White House."
Editorial: Majority rule: It’s time for the Senate to revive common sense (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA] , 11/21/13)
"Republican minority’s latest use of a filibuster to obstruct three more judge nominations, ... Ninety-two vacancies exist among 850 federal judge positions on U.S. district and appellate courts across the country. That means nearly one in nine seats is empty. Some 38 of these are on courts that are overburdened in their caseloads. Even Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, has urged the Senate to act expeditiously on the nominations, given the courts’ dilemma. ...cutting off a filibuster on these nominations with 51 votes — is more than justified by the country’s need for judges and the speedier justice they can bring all citizens."
Editorial: Senate dysfunction brings the 'nuclear option' (Newsday [NY], 11/21/13)
"While Democrats and Republicans have each threatened over the years to make that most significant procedural change in a generation, the issue exploded this week when Republicans filibustered three of President Barack Obama's nominees to the prominent appeals court in Washington.... That no deal was possible this time shows the depth of Senate dysfunction. It was time to give rule by a simple majority a try."
Statement by the President (The White House, 11/21/13)
"And here's why this is important: One of a President's constitutional responsibilities is to nominate Americans to positions within the executive and judicial branches. Over the six decades before I took office, only 20 presidential nominees to executive positions had to overcome filibusters. In just under five years since I took office, nearly 30 nominees have been treated this way. ... And this obstruction gets even worse when it comes to the judiciary. The Constitution charges the President with filling vacancies to the federal bench. Every President has exercised this power since George Washington first named justices to the Supreme Court in 1789. But my judicial nominees have waited nearly two and a half times longer to receive yes or no votes on the Senate floor than those of President Bush. And the ones who eventually do get a vote generally are confirmed with little, if any, dissent. So this isn't obstruction on substance, on qualifications. It's just to gum up the works. And this gridlock in Congress causes gridlock in much of our criminal and civil justice systems. You've seen judges across the country, including a Bush-appointed Chief Justice to the Supreme Court, say these are vital vacancies that need to be filled, and this gridlock has not served the cause of justice; in fact, it's undermined it. Over the past three weeks, Senate Republicans again denied a yes or no vote on three highly qualified Americans to fill three vacancies on the nation's second-highest court, even though they have the support of a majority of senators. Four of President Bush's six nominees to this court were confirmed. Four out of five of my nominees to this court have been obstructed."
Harry Reid busts the filibuster (Los Angeles Times, 11/21/13)
Michael McGough, Times' Opinion staff: "The final straw was the Republicans' filibustering of three of President Obama's nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on the transparent pretext that the court was underworked and should have fewer members. The Los Angeles Times editorial board long has opposed the filibuster"
The Public Needs a Nap (New York Times, 11/21/13)
Op-Ed Columnist, GAIL COLLINS: "what’s been happening to nominations to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. It has three vacancies, and the Republicans have been refusing to allow a vote on the three Obama nominees to fill them. ... The eight judges who are currently sitting are divided 4 to 4 between Republican and Democratic appointees, but there are also six senior judges who are still working after semiretirement. Five of them are Republican nominees. So the president would naturally like to fill those three vacancies. ... The Senate should fill the vacancies. Then it can have a nice, reasoned debate about the size of the court when one side doesn’t have a ridiculously obvious partisan reason for wanting it smaller. ... And the bottom line is that it’s a good thing to give the minority party some muscle to stop bad or extremist nominees from getting lifetime judicial appointments. But we have crossed the line to crazy when the minority party can announce that the woman who argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court can’t be on the D.C. District Circuit Court of Appeals because it’s too expensive. Change the rules."
Editorial: Harry Reid’s Filibuster Gamble (Bloomberg News, 11/21/13)
"[T]there can be little doubt about what happened in recent weeks, when Republicans used it to prevent three qualified nominees from taking the bench in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Republicans complained that President Barack Obama’s appointments would shift the ideology on the court. Well, yes, that’s one of his prerogatives, isn’t it?"