Filibusters Continue: This Is Obstruction And Nullification Of Democracy

Dave Johnson

They did it again. Republicans on Monday filibustered to block the Senate from voting on the nomination of Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. This filibuster was one more piece of the Republican campaign to obstruct everything.

After the filibuster vote President Obama issued a statement that concluded:

“The American people and our judicial system deserve better. A majority of the United States Senate supports these three extraordinary nominees, and it is time for simple yes-or-no votes without further obstruction or delay.”

In the last few weeks Republicans filibustered to block votes on the nominations of Nina Pillard and Patricia Millett to the same court. They also blocked a vote on the nomination of Congressman Mel Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency. These are just the latest few of hundreds of filibusters literally obstructing almost everything the Senate has attempted to accomplish. (Note: a sitting member of Congress nominated to an executive branch position has never before been filibustered to prevent an up-or-down vote on his or her nomination. More than 20 nominees have been filibustered now.)

After last week’s filibusters Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said:

“We need to call out these filibusters for what they are: Naked attempts to nullify the results of the last election … If Republicans continue to filibuster these highly qualified nominees for no reason other than to nullify the president’s constitutional authority, then senators not only have the right to change the filibuster, senators have a duty to change the filibuster rules. We cannot turn our backs on the Constitution. We cannot abdicate our oath of office.”

Obstruction

This is obstruction of the will of the people. There was a vote and the president was re-elected. Poll after poll make it clear what the public wants. A majority of the House and Senate want to vote and pass bills and confirm nominees. But Senate Republicans are obstructing votes on nominees because they would be confirmed, and on bills because they would pass. House Republicans are also refusing to allow bills to come up for a vote because they would pass. They are nullifying the election and democracy. They are denying We the People a voice, and denying We the People the things government is supposed to be doing.

Even former Republican Senator Olympia Snowe said recently, “When you have these back-to-back rejections of nominees, at some point it may be trying to reverse the results of the election.”

The strategy is clear: obstruct everything, make government fail, then run against failure. Cause the problem and present yourself as the solution to the problem.

Make Them Talk

Democrats have been huffing and puffing about finally doing something to stop this obstruction, without doing anything to actually stop this obstruction. At this point it seems many Senate Democrats are willing accomplices in this obstruction and nullification strategy. One is that Republicans will be able to pass things that Democrats can’t filibuster. There is merit to this argument, except it ignores just who the modern Republicans are – as if the these Republicans won’t kill the filibuster within five minutes after taking the Senate. Seriously?

There is a way to stop the obstruction but preserve the filibuster: Make them talk. Don’t just kill the filibuster, make them talk. Change the rules so filibusters can still proceed, but must involve actual senators actually talking on the actual Senate floor. Make them talk.

Actions And Resources

Visit Fix the Senate Now

The Communications Workers of America is urging people to click this to write your senators today and tell them to put an end to the obstruction.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has a judicial-oriented “Reform the Filibuster” page and petition.

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