The Nuclear Option
Harry Reid and the Democrat-controlled Senate adopted the so-called “Nuclear Option” on November 21, 2013. That’s a date America will have cause to remember in years to come. It will work to the advantage of the Progressives in the near run. They will be able to obtain a quick approval of all the ultra-liberal justices that have been nominated for Federal courts by President Obama. It will be only a formality to bring those nominees before the Senate for confirmation hearings. No Democrat Senator has yet had the courage to vote against Harry Reid without the Leader's explicit permission—that would be to vote against something that is a shoo-in so that they can tell their constituents, “I voted against gun control”. This is specifically permitted by Reid so that Progressives can hang onto the seat that might otherwise be threatened.
No, in this instance, why not just bring in a list of the names of nominees for a quick vote of approval? Maybe the 50 Progressives and so-called “Independents” (who hold quorum with the Progressives; indeed, one “Independent” is an avowed Socialist) can just give Harry a proxy to vote for them. That would shorten the confirmation hearings to a few minutes for the whole group. Read the names, have Harry Reid say, “I and the other 50 members whose votes I am authorized to cast approve the nominations of these 120 judges.” As was the case in the drafting of the ACA, Republicans need not attend, because you will not be allowed to have an input.
As always, there is method behind Reid’s madness. Or Obama’s genius—whoever came up with this idea. You see, some challenges to the (Un) Affordable Care Act will be brought before the second-most powerful court in the United States—The Appellate Court of the District of Columbia. It is imperative that the three extremely liberal justices Obama has selected to fill openings on that court be confirmed soon, so that they can hear appeals of the various supposed illegalities of Obamacare and rule in Obama’s favor BEFORE elections next November, when (hopefully) conservatives can perhaps regain control of the House and Senate.
Why is employment of the “Nuclear Option” such a departure from the way things have been done since the adoption of the Constitution? To understand that, we need to be informed as to the rationale behind determining how members of the two houses of the legislature would be selected:
Article I, section 3, of the Constitution states:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
The framers believed that having state legislatures elect senators would strengthen the states' ties to the national government and increase the chances for ratification of the Constitution. They hoped that this arrangement would give state political leaders a sense of participation, calming their fears about a strong central government. They also wanted to provide a filter between the Senate and the passions and pressures of the populace. As the authors of the Federalist Papers explained, election by the state legislatures "is recommended by the double advantage of favoring a select appointment, and of giving to the State governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems" (Federalist No. 62). (Beautiful language—would that our education system made it possible for us to be able to fully comprehend it!)
Question: What is the Great Compromise?
Answer: Two plans were put forth during the Constitutional Convention to create the new branches of government. The Virginia Plan wanted a strong national government with three branches. The legislature would have two houses. One would be directly elected by the people and the second would selected by the first house from people nominated by the state legislatures. Further, the president and national judiciary would be chosen by the national legislature. On the other hand, the New Jersey Plan wanted a more decentralized plan amending the old Articles yet allowing for a somewhat stronger government. Each state would have one vote in Congress.
The Great Compromise combined these two plans creating our current legislature with two houses, one based on population and elected by the people and the other house allowing two senators per state being appointed by state legislatures.
Why did the framers of the constitution set up the Senate that way? The smaller states were afraid of being run over by the more populous. Virginia was by far the bigger with a population of almost 750,000. Several states had fewer than 100,000 citizens. By allowing each state only two senators, regardless of the population, and giving that body responsibility for confirming Presidential appointments, a balance was achieved to protect minority rights.
Because of abuses by some states of the rules regarding interim appointments of Senators, etc., the 17th Amendment in 1912 changed the method of choosing Senators from selection by State legislatures to popular election—just like the House. This change, widely hailed by many when instituted, has the effect of making those Senators more beholden to the Senate Majority (or Minority, for that matter) Leader than to the state that he ostensibly represents. That leader can be more instrumental in effecting his re-election than close ties to the electorate of his state.
Good move for the states? What do you think NOW?
Certainly, the Democrats employing the nuclear option makes future elections a great deal more important to each party.