The left is using every opportunity to fight the filibuster. As I have argued at Red State and Big Government numerous times, the filibuster is essential for democracy. Don't be fooled, the left will use any excuse to message against the right of the minority to debate nominations and offer amendments to legislation. The far left would like to establish rule without dissent and have contempt for anybody that disagrees with them. The left seems intent on changing the rules of Congress to exterminate free speech and the exhange of ideas in the legislative branch of government when those ideas come from Republicans, moderate Democrats and nonconforming Americans.
The latest attack is by Dylan Loewe, "Speechwriter, Author," and contributor to The Huffington Post argues today that Senator Richard Shelby's attempt to hold up all of President Obama's nominees is a great opportunity for a teaching moment against the filibuster.
Last month, the Pew Research Center released a poll that found that only 26 percent of respondents know that 60 votes are required to break a filibuster. No wonder Democratic complaints about Republican obstructionists have thus far failed to catch fire.
The Constitution states in Article I, Section 5 that “each house may determine the rule of its proceedings.” The Senate has passed Rule 22, by a 2/3rds vote consistent with other Senate rules that governs the procedure to end a filibuster. The left wants that rule exterminated from the Senate rule book by a simple majority because they lost the Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) special election and don't have a working filibuster proof majority anymore.
Senator Shelby (R-AL) is angry over a competitive bid for a contract to build aerial refueling tankers potentially worth $40 billion to the company and state that wins the bid. As a result he is threatening to hold up every Obama nominee to the executive branch until the Administration addresses his concerns. According to the National Journal (password required)
Earlier in the day, a spokesman for Shelby said the senator has placed holds on "several pending nominees due to unaddressed national security concerns," including frustrations with the Air Force's handling of the competition for an aerial refueling tanker.
Now, I have no opinion on the merits of Shelby's objections on the tanker issue. This is a controversy that has been raging for years and it will ultimately be worked out in the competitive bidding process and maybe Congress. But that debate and the potential that Shelby is stepping over a line, is separtate from the debate over the filibuster. If some in the Senate want to argue Shelby is wrong, so be it, but do not use this controversy as a pre-text to eliminate the filibuster so liberals in Senate leadership can railroad through the Senate ObamaCare, a "Jobs Bill," Cap and Trade, and Financial Services Reform.
The National Journal reports that another concern Shelby has is frustration over an earmark.
In addition to the tanker issue, Shelby's spokesman said he is frustrated that the Obama administration won't build an Alabama-based FBI center to analyze improvised explosive devices. Shelby secured a $45 million earmark in the FY08 omnibus appropriations bill for a Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center to be set up at the Army's Redstone Arsenal.
Again, I don't like earmarks and don't think that the Administration welching on an earmark is a good reason to block all Obama Administration nominees. Earmarks are a problem and conservatives have been fighting the practice for years. Members who can't wean themselves off of earmarks don't give the average American the impression that they are serious about finding ways to reduce or eliminate the $12.3 trillion in debt that we are passing on to future generations.
Futhermore, this is a great teaching moment on why earmarking is such a problem with Members of Congress and the need for an earmark moratorium. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) will be proposing "an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Resolution that will impose a year-long moratorium on congressional earmarks." The earmark argument is a side issue, and an excuse for the left to attack the filibuster yet again. They don't care about the merits, or lack of merit, for Shelby's rage, they want to use this situation as an excuse to terminate the filibuster.
Senator Shelby has used the threat of a filibuster, a "hold," to threaten to shut down the Senate if the Administration does not engage in a fair competitive bidding process for the aerial refueling tankers. The blanket hold on all nominees will serve the purpose of getting the attention of this administration. The Administration can consider recess appointments if they want to place these nominees into executive branch positions for a temporary period of time and to circumvent the Shelby holds.
It is likely that Senator Shelby will not follow through with his threat to filibuster every nominee. This is merely one way that Senators can get the attention of bureaucrats in the executive branch. Yet this incident served the purposes of the left to try again to change the rules of the Senate to eliminate rules they don't like.
Vice President Biden said to National Journal that "what I have been doing is spending a lot of time having my staff go back and scrub this, you know, the use of the filibuster and how it's worked. This is not a Constitutional requirement." True, yet the filibuster is enabled by the constitutional provision that allows the Senate to make its own rules.
This is the same Joe Biden who as Senator in 2005 critiqued Republicans for considering the removal of the filibuster for nominations and argued "folks who want to see this change want to eliminate one of the procedural mechanisms designed for the express purpose of guaranteeing individual rights, and they also have a consequence, and would undermine the protections of a minority point of view in the heat of majority excess. We have been through these periods before in American history but never, to the best of my knowledge, has any party been so bold as to fundamentally attempt to change the structure of this body." The Senator Joe Biden of 2005 may argue that the Vice President Biden of 2010 as suffering from an "arrogance of power."
For more resources on the necessity of the filibuster, you can refer to “The Filibuster is Essential for Democracy,” “The Filibuster is Constitutional and Essential for Freedom,” and “Leftists Continue War Against Filibuster.”