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Barack Obama and Harry Reid on filibusters: Then and Now

Harry Reid

Obama and Reid exhibit a shameless willingness to argue that their filibusters of Bush’s nominees were principled and substantive dissent which the Constitution was designed to protect and also argue that the GOP’s filibusters of Obama nominees is purely craven partisan politics and certainly not what the Constitution intended. Their duplicity is shocking even by the relatively duplicitous norms of Washington, D.C. 

The Senate has agreed to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “nuclear option” rule change which ends filibusters of judicial nominations by allowing 51 Senators to confirm judges. Shortly after the Senate vote, President Obama expressed his support for the rule change. Now might be a good time to look at how the position of both Reid and Obama has evolved since the days when they were both in the minority of the Senate and George W. Bush was in the White House.

The record reveals that both Harry Reid and Barack Obama made one argument when they the Democrats were blocking George Bush’s nominees and made an entirely opposite argument when the Republicans are blocking Obama’s nominees.  (For the record, the important nominations that the GOP is currently blocking are for open slots that went unfilled when George Bush was president because the Democrats filibustered his nominations throughout this presidency. Thus, today those openings are still there. Now Democrats change the rules because they say that filibustering a Democratic nominee is wrong and partisan, when filibustering a GOP nominee only a few years ago was the expression of important political dissent.)

Harry Reid THEN: “My Republican colleagues claim that nominees are entitled to an up-down vote. That claim ignores history, including recent history.” (floor speech, April 26, 2005)

Harry Reid NOW: “These nominees deserve at least an up-or-down vote. But Republican filibusters deny them a fair vote and deny the president his team.”

Harry Reid THEN: “Some in this chamber want to throw out 214 years of Senate history in the quest for absolute power … They think they’re wiser than our founding fathers. I doubt that that’s true.” (floor speech, May 18, 2005)

Harry Reid NOW: “This is not about Democrats versus Republicans. This is about making Washington work – regardless of who’s in the White House or who controls the Senate. To remain relevant and effective as an institution, the Senate must evolve to meet the challenges of a modern era.”

Harry Reid THEN: The nuclear option, “simply put, would be the end of the United States Senate.” (from the book The Good Fight: Hard Lessons from Searchlight to Washington, 2008)

Harry Reid NOW: “It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete.”

THEN Senator Barack Obama argued against changing the filibuster when he and his Democratic colleagues in the Senate were filibustering President Bush’s nominees: “If the right of free and open debate is taken away from the minority party, and the millions of Americans who ask us to be their voice, I fear that the partisan atmosphere in Washington will be poisoned to the point where no one will be able to agree on anything.”

NOW President Barack Obama argued in favor of changing the filibuster when the opposing party is filibustering his nominees: “All too often we’ve seen a single senator or a handful of senators choose to abuse arcane procedural tactics to unilaterally block bipartisan compromises or to prevent well-qualified, patriotic Americans from filling critical positions of public service in our system of government.” (Sen. Obama thought the filibuster was about “the right of full and open debate” and was a legitimate way for the minority party in the Senate to express its dissent. Now President Obama sees the filibuster as illegitimate obstructionism. And is Obama arguing that his nominees are “patriotic Americans, but Bush’s nominees were not “patriotic?”) 

NOW President Obama says, “I support the step a majority of senators today took to change the way that Washington is doing business, more specifically, the way the Senate does business.” (Yet, in 2005, Senator Obama did not support a the same filibuster rule change when it was proposed to stop the the Democrat’s obstructionism of Bush’s nominees.)

Editor’s Note:  The mainstream media may or may not mention Obama’s and Reid’s opportunism and intellectual dishonesty. But one thing you can bank on is that the mainstream media will not highlight it, focus on it, or make much of it. Instead, the mainstream media will do its best to justify the filibuster “reform” – as some media outlets have already labeled it – as needed and entirely justified. This not only proves the level of dishonesty in politics, but that the mainstream media is also corrupt and dishonest. That the press is largely corrupt in part explains why politics has become so corrupted. The press used to fulfill the important role of holding elected officials accountable. It was referred to as the “Fourth Estate.” Now the press mostly cheers for those liberal politicians it sees as their ideological soulmates.