Democrats in the Senate pushed the button on the “nuclear option” this week. That is, they eliminated the filibuster rule on all executive and judicial appointments except for the Supreme Court. They did because DC Circuit Court of Appeals has been setting Obama back on his heels in some of his most egregious assaults on the U.S. Constitutions. The DC Circuit consists of 8 judges, 4 Republican appointees and 4 Democrat.
Obama wants to fix his problem by packing the already under-worked DC Circuit with three more judges. Not just liberal judges, but Marxist radical types that can be relied upon to give Obama a blank check to do big things without having to go to Congress for legislative authority. Obama’s big things always seem to be things that are far outside his Constitutional authority. Obama’s plan has been stalled because Republicans have been showing some rare backbone. They’ve used the filibuster option to successfully block some of Obama’s horribly bad nominations of radical leftists who would have helped Obama shred the United States Constitution.
The DC Circuit is critical because all Constitutional cases that originate in Washington DC, and that’s most of them, are heard on appeal by the DC Circuit.
So Obama wanted the nuclear option, and he got it. Republicans will no longer be able to block his lower court and appeals court nominations of communists and radical left-wing Marxist loons by filibustering them. In fact, Republican Senators may as well go fishing whenever the Senate is considering Obama’s judicial nominees because they will have no say in the matter. The millions of Americans who voted for them are now wholly unrepresented when it comes to installing Federal judges below the Supreme Court level. Obama will staff up the DC Circuit with Judicial lackeys who will rubber stamp every one of his Constitutional transgressions.
There was a risk that the Democrats ignored when they pulled this trigger. The Obamacare fiasco is not just a run of the mill Democrat flub that voters might ignore and/or easily forget. The millions of health insurance cancellations have affected millions of people in ways they won’t soon forget. It’s only going to get worse as millions more such cancellations come through the pipeline over the next 12 months. There are many more Democrat senators up for reelection in 2014 than Republican and it’s foreseeable that those Democrats are going to pay a heavy price at the polls next November. A Republican senate may be in place come January, 2015 which can use simple majority rule to confirm or deny Presidential nominees. If Republicans install a president in 2017, which seems likely, they will be able to confirm judicial nominees without a single Democrat vote.
If one wonders why Democrats failed to heed this risk something called Prospect Theory may explain it. Simply stated, people tend to be more willing to take risks to avoid perceived losses than to achieve gains. Democrats saw they were losing the battle of the judges because Republicans suddenly acted out of character and were blocking Obama’s worst nominees. They cared more about avoiding these immediate losses than the much greater losses that loom ahead when Republicans are in the majority. Keeping Republican fingers off the nuclear trigger of Senate rules would have been a gain given the likely future of the Senate, but their heuristic thinking prevented them from worrying about that right now.
Of course, there is another factor that might make this more rational. Republicans might not use this new advantage when it’s available to them. Republicans have a long history of being too scared to use power when they have it in their hands. Democrats are so used to this now they probably take it for granted that if Republicans regain control of the Senate they’ll revert to their normal pusillanimity.