Before the episode recedes fully from the news, please read this item, by Jonathan Cohn on Thursday evening, about the extraordinary step the Senate Republicans took that day. Cohn says that the Republican minority’s success in blocking a vote on Richard Cordray’s nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau amounts to “nullification,” quoting Thomas Mann of Brookings to the same effect. They are right. [As is David Weigel in Slate.]
Read on for the background, which is terrifying if you stop to think about it. If you don’t have time, just take a look at this:
Update: This is what they mean by nullification:
This week’s thwarted vote represented a further step in Constitutional revision, in that the minority was not simply trying to keep a bill from being passed. Instead they were openly trying to keep an already-approved piece of legislation from taking effect — they were nullifying it. To simplify the story: the legislation in question established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, often described as Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild. President Obama shied from nominating Warren herself, who had become “polarizing.” The Republicans have nothing against the replacement nominee, Richard Cordray, except that they don’t want his agency to exist. Thus the blocked vote on his nomination. As Senator Orrin Hatch put it to the New York Times:
“This is not about the nominee, who appears to be a decent person and may very well be qualified,” said Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, according to the Associated Press. “It’s about a process that is running out of control.”
Out of control indeed. Apart from the short-term distortion of processes of self-government, here are two longer-term problems.
Basically, the Republicans are saying that they don’t like a law that was legally passed so they are going to behave as if it didn’t. That’s new, I think. It’s not a nuclear option, it’s a dirty bomb thrown into the middle of the democratic process.
I honestly don’t know what happens now.