November 23, 2013, 12:00 pm
Filibuster change clears path for Obama climate regs crackdown
By Laura Barron-Lopez
Green groups might be the biggest winners from Senate Democrats’ decision to gut the minority party’s filibuster rights on nominations. Their top priority — President Obama’s second-term regulations on climate change — is likely to have a better shot at surviving legal challenges once Obama’s nominees are confirmed for the crucial U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Melinda Pierce, a policy expert for the Sierra Club, said the addition of Obama’s three nominees would be an “improvement” to the D.C. Circuit, which is second only to the Supreme Court in influence and power. “But filling up all 11 seats, a full panel is an improvement to the current situation in the court,” Pierce said. “And we hope these additions will ensure that the climate regulations are upheld.” Pierce also defended the three nominees — Patricia Millett, Robert Wilkins and Nina Pillard — saying they “are by no means activists.” The decision by Senate Democrats to end the filibuster on judicial and administration nominees was decried by Republicans, who described it as a “power grab” aimed at loosening the checks on presidential power. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday said it was “clear” that Democrats were triggering the “nuclear option” to advance Obama’s agenda.
US politics: when nuclear deterrence fails
- The Guardian, Friday 22 November 2013 18.40 EST
The endurance of John F Kennedy’s memory, when that of other US presidents has faded, is only partially explained by the manner of his death, of a charismatic leader cut down in his prime and the thought of what might have been. Kennedy carried with him the hopes of a generation, but the mood of America then has few parallels today. It was optimistic, internationalist and, by today’s standards, illiberal. Had he lived, what JFK might have done on civil rights, the defining struggle of his decade, is a matter of debate. He lacked Lyndon Johnson’s understanding as a southerner or his sense of urgency. Public opinion at the time thought JFK was pushing too hard, too fast.
Like Kennedy, Barack Obama also started out as a genuinely inspirational president. His list of achievements, however, must all be qualified: on the one hand, the withdrawal from Iraq and what will become a partial pullout from Afghanistan; on the other, a commander in chief who has ordered more drone strikes than any other, and presided over the most intrusive internet and telephone surveillance operation ever. Mr Obama’s liberalism is directional. Step out of the allotted vectors of progressive action and this president turns out to be flawed in his own ways. The Affordable Care Act is a huge achievement – if they can actually get it to work. But Mr Obama’s White House can not be understood without factoring in the conservative forces determined at all costs to stop this administration from working.
The right’s horror towards Senate Democrats‘ move this week to end the filibuster for most nominations by presidents must, for instance, be weighed against the frequency with which that wrecking ball has recently been swung by Republicans. As the Senate majority leader Harry Reid said, half of all the filibusters in the history of the republic occurred in the last five years. Further, 20 of the 23 district court nominees filibustered in the history of America were nominated by Mr Obama. Were they so unfit for office? Patently no. Were Republicans in the Senate so intent on obstructing everything that emanates from this presidency? Patently yes. So the “nuclear” option of banning the filibuster has to be judged against how irradiated the atmosphere in Washington already is.
With the filibuster nuked, bring on the liberal judges
Be bold, Mr. President! That’s the message from liberal advocacy groups pushing for more progressive judges now that Senate Democrats have nuked the filibuster for judicial nominations.
“We certainly think there is a need for professional diversity on the federal bench,” says Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice. “There are only a handful of lawyers who have been appointed who have backgrounds in legal services, criminal defense, public interest, or civil rights.”
When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, liberal legal groups, which have been struggling to replicate the success of the conservative legal movement in placing their heroes on the federal bench, saw an opportunity to even the score. But Republican embrace of the filibuster meant that some of the most promising liberal legal minds Obama chose – picks like Goodwin Liu, whose nomination to the federal bench was filibustered into oblivion – never had a chance. Republicans warned that abolishing the filibuster would lead to more judges in the vein of Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas on the bench. Now liberals are hoping Obama starts nominating picks who look like their progressive counterparts.
“You need to have a sample of people who have actually interacted with real human beings, who have represented them when they’ve been accused of a crime, when they’ve been victims of discrimination, and actually understand what the issues are in some of those cases,” says Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society. “The administration has certainly nominated a number of people with that background, but we’d love to see more.”
Indeed, Obama has nominated the most diverse slate of candidates to the federal bench in history. But the GOP’s frequent use of the filibuster meant that when making its choices, the White House had to take into careful consideration candidates who had a fighting chance of making it to 60 votes in the Senate. A large portion of Obama nominees come from private practice or from roles as government attorneys or prosecutors, according to an AFJ analysis. More than three times as many Obama Circuit Court nominees have been prosecutors as public defenders; for the District courts it’s more than twice as many.
Obama: GOP Filibusters Look to ‘Re-Fight’ Last Election, Not His Nominees
November 21, 2013 2:57 PM
…..Obama said that the “unprecedented pattern of obstruction” in Congress has “escalated” too far, and that Americans can no longer “keep falling prey to Washington politics.” He pointed out that the while the majority of George W. Bush’s judicial nominees were confirmed, the majority of his own nominees have been obstructed.
He pointed out that when his nominees have been confirmed, there is very little dissent – indicated that the moves to block them were not based on substance but rather on pure politics.
“In each of these cases it’s not been that they opposed the person,” said Obama. “It was simply because they oppose the policies that the American people voted for in the last election.”
He said it was more about the GOP looking to “re-fight the results of an election.”
While pointing out that “neither party has been blameless for these tactics,” he said there is a block of Republicans in Congress that is running on a platform against government, only to become elected government officials dedicated to making “government not work as often as possible.”
“The gears of government have to work,” said Obama.