Senate Republicans’ Devotion to Obstructionism

April 8, 2013

by Jeremy Leaming

Senators will finally get around to considering a couple of judicial nominations this week, which will remind anyone paying attention of the ongoing intransigence of an increasingly conservative Republican Party.

The Senate will consider the nomination of Judge Patty Shwartz to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing on the nomination of Principal Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan (pictured) to one of the four vacant seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The Republican obstructionists in the Senate, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-K.Y.), have already derailed one of President Obama’s selections to the D.C. Circuit. Last month the obstructionists refused to allow an up-or-down vote on Caitlin Halligan, general counsel for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, to the D.C. Circuit. It was the second time the obstructionists blocked a floor vote on her nomination. Halligan subsequently withdrew her nomination. The D.C. Circuit, hearings some of the most important constitutional cases in the country and currently has a right-wing majority. The few obstructionists who were willing to give reasons for scuttling Halligan’s nomination were incredibly flimsy. The truth is that McConnell and his band of obstructionists like the make-up of the D.C. Circuit, don’t want it to change, and will very likely continue to try to keep vacancies on the Circuit in hopes that they’ll be able to resume seeding all the Circuits with judges who are shills for corporate interests.

Some beltway pundits like to report that the current obstructionism is nothing particularly new and that both parties are to blame, which is incomplete. Closer to reality is that the Republican Party is a far more conservative party, one devoted largely to coddling the nation’s superrich. The nation’s superwealthy have enjoyed the status quo -- where nothing much on Capitol Hill gets done.

In an enjoyable article that roams a bit, Salon’s Alex Pareene explores some of the “awful” aspects of the Senate and blasts some of the beltway punditry, especially those who idealize the Senate as a place where Republicans and Democrats once got along splendidly, inspiring speeches were given and meaningful work accomplished.

Pareene notes that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) a ubiquitous figure on Sunday morning political talk shows recently took a shot at Sen. Rand Paul (R-K.Y.) for threatening a filibuster of gun-safety legislation. (Rand has promised a talking filibuster, similar to the one he launched last month to rail against the Obama administration’s explanation or lack thereof surrounding its use of drones to kill suspected terrorists – and almost inevitably lots of innocent people right along with them.)

Pareene points out, McCain is in no place to grouse about the filibuster – he’s part of McConnell’s gang that has silently filibustered or seriously delayed many of the administration’s judicial nominations. (The federal bench has more than 80 vacancies, where they’ve hovered for much of the Obama’s presidency.)

“People like John McCain have done everything they could to make an undemocratic body even more undemocratic, because doing so helps people like John McCain pretend they are power brokers and statesmen instead of members of organized political parties representing various interests, elected by people who assume that the party label next to the name is a reliable indicator of how that person will vote once in office,” Pareene writes.

Pareene is far more lucid on this topic than The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, but that’s not a terribly difficult feat. It’s true that an infusion of civility and more “moderates” will not return Senate to an alleged august era. One has practically never existed.

What we are dealing with now is one major political Party that obsesses over the care of the superrich, corporate interests and austerity measures and another that believes it can reach compromise with that Party. That means, at the end of the day, status quo reigns.