Alexander: Democrats Breaking Senate Rules Is “Obamacare II,” Another “Raw Exercise of Partisan Political Power”
Posted on November 21, 2013
Says “nuclear option” would make the Senate a place where “the home team can cheat to win the game”
“The president said during the government shutdown that he wasn’t going to negotiate with a gun to his head – neither will I. The Democrats have had their finger on the nuclear button for two years. I hope they will reconsider.” – Lamar Alexander
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 – In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the Senate Democratic majority’s plan to get rid of the filibuster for presidential nominations – which the Senate majority accomplished today, by a vote of 52-48 – would be another “raw exercise of partisan political power” equivalent to the partisan passage of Obamacare. He also said he will no longer negotiate over such threats, and noted that Democrats have taken the Republican position both on the D.C. Circuit and the filibuster in the past. (Click HERE to see video of Alexander’s speech.)
“This is my third opportunity to respond to these nuclear threats, and I’m not going to do it again. The president said during the government shutdown that he wasn't going to negotiate with a gun to his head – neither will I. The Democrats have had their finger on the nuclear button for two years. I hope they will reconsider,” Alexander said. “If the Democrats proceed to use the nuclear option in this way, it will be Obamacare II: It will be another raw exercise of partisan political power to say we can do whatever we want to do.”
If Senate Democrats break the Senate’s rules so that they only need a simple majority – as opposed to 60 votes under a filibuster – on presidential nominations, Alexander said, it would prove what Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., recently said in quoting his Michigan predecessor, former Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg. Vandenberg said, “If a majority of the Senate can change its rules at any time, there are no rules.”
Alexander continued: “Let’s say Vanderbilt’s football team gets on the one-yard line of Tennessee, and Tennessee then says ‘Well, we’re the home team, let’s add 20 yards or whatever it takes to win the game.’ Or let’s say in the World Series recently, the Red Sox were behind St. Louis in the ninth inning and the Red Sox said, ‘Well, we’re the home team, let’s add a couple of innings or whatever it takes to win the game. Everyone would say ‘You’re destroying the game’ of football or baseball. … I hope we will resist turning the Senate into an institution where the home team can cheat to win the game to get whatever result it wants at any time it wants.”
Alexander gave these additional reasons he hopes the Democrats will reconsider:
- Democrats previously supported reducing the number of judgeships on the D.C. Circuit: In 2006, Senate Democrats, including Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined in calling for a reduction in the number of judges on the D.C. Circuit, Alexander said. Ultimately the Senate and President George W. Bush opted to lessen the number of judges on the D.C. Circuit by one seat, moving it to the Ninth Circuit.
Alexander said it would be premature to have an up or down vote on the presidents’ nominees to the D.C. Circuit until the Senate considers a proposal he has cosponsored with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to remove one judgeship and move two others to the Second and Eleventh Circuits. Alexander has said, “I’ll not vote to end the debate on the president’s nominees until the Senate does in 2013 what Democratic senators suggested and the Senate did in 2007: move judges from where they are not needed to where they are needed most.”
- President Obama’s nominees have received the same or better treatment than his predecessors: According to the Senate historian, Alexander said, President Obama’s cabinet nominees so far in his second term have been confirmed at about the same pace as President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. Senate Democrats in the majority also control whether nominees are reported to the floor of the Senate, Alexander said, and there is no backlog.
Republicans are also following a precedent Democrats set, Alexander said, when they filibustered circuit court judges under President Bush. In the history of the Senate, no nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, federal district court or the president’s cabinet have been denied their seat by filibuster.
Alexander said Democratic Leader Harry Reid has previously warned against getting rid of the filibuster for presidential nominations, because it would lead to getting rid of it for legislation and be “the end of the United States Senate.” The Senate, Alexander said, is supposed to guard against the “tyranny of the majority,” as historian Alexis de Tocqueville put it, by forcing the majority in the Senate and the president to work with the minority toward a consensus.
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