For four and a half years, Senate Republicans have made unprecedented use of the filibuster. Intended to protect the minority, the filibuster historically was used only as a last resort to prevent tyranny by the majority.
It was an extreme measure to be used in extreme circumstances.
But in the hands of Mitch McConnell and his cohorts, the filibuster has become business as usual. It has been used to block most of President Obama’s nominees to federal courts. It was used to try to block the Affordable Care Act. It was used to block nominees for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It was used to block the appointment of the head of the National Labor Relations Board. It was used to block the appointment of Elizabeth Warren to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she helped create.
And that’s just scratching the surface of procedural abuse by Republicans. Many nominations are blocked in committee through anonymous “holds.” In Obama’s first term, there was an incident in which former Senator Jon Kyl stood on the Senate floor and, as each nominee’s name was read, repeated “I object” 70 times. As a result, our federal courts are horribly understaffed.
The irony escaped most in the media when, a short time later, in eulogizing Judge John Roll who was killed in the attack on Rep. Gabby Giffords, Kyl waxed eloquently about how Judge Roll took on extra caseloads because of the shortage of federal judges.
Despite all of this, the national media all but refuses to acknowledge abuse of the filibuster. In most cases, the reporters don’t even mention the word. Instead, they say that the bill “failed to gain the 60 votes needed,” that the nomination “fell short of the necessary votes,” that the measure “failed to meet the procedural requirements.”
The failure is really that of the Republican Party and the media! The Republican Party failed to serve the interests of the American people. And the media failed to accurately report the Republican’s abuse of the filibuster! Maybe it’s because reporters have just tired of using the word. Or maybe they simply don’t know how to spell it.
Keep that in mind the next time you hear or read a story about a bill or nomination that is blocked in the Senate. The Senate rules only require a simple majority of 51 votes to pass legislation or to confirm nominees. The hurdle of 60 votes for any measure is the result of Teapublican obstruction, no matter what the media says.