March 30, 2009

Reid’s Nuclear Option Hypocrisy

The headline from Majority Leader Reid’s breakfast with reporters Friday morning was Reid’s charge that Chief Justice “John Roberts misled the Senate during his confirmation hearings by pretending to be a moderate” (Politico paraphrase). But what struck us most about the breakfast was Mr. Reid’s amazing lack of self-awareness when he railed against the proposed use of the “nuclear option” in 2005 to prevent the filibuster of President Bush’s judicial nominees, while at the same time threatening to use a similar nuclear option to pass President Obama's health-care initiative. At the breakfast,
“Mr. Reid was coy when asked whether he would try to push for major health care changes under the budget reconciliation process, which would mean it could move to a vote without having to face a Republican filibuster in the Senate. ‘That remains to be seen,’ he said.” (Washington Times)
Yet at the same breakfast, Reid described the GOP’s proposed process for ending the Democratic filibuster of judges as an attempt “to ruin our country,” adding
“the nuclear option was the most important issue I’ve ever worked on in my entire career, because if that had gone forward it would have destroyed the Senate as we know it.”
At the breakfast, Mr. Reid did promise not to use the nuclear option to prevent Republicans from filibustering judicial nominees. But that’s an easy promise to make given that the GOP has never filibustered a judicial nominee.

Returning to Sen. Reid’s claim that Chief Justice Roberts misled the Senate by pretending to be a moderate, it’s important to clarify that what Roberts actually said at his September 2005 hearing was “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them.” Roberts’s point was that judges shouldn’t use their power to advance a particular political agenda, be it moderate, liberal, or conservative. This stands in sharp contrast to President Obama’s promise to appoint judges with “the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom [or] poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old.” Given this activist judicial philosophy, which is common among Democrats, it’s no wonder that Reid and Obama view Roberts as a dangerous reactionary.

We note that Sen. Reid voted against the confirmation of John Roberts, so Reid must be talking about his less perceptive colleagues when he says that Roberts misled the Senate. Reid added Friday that “we’re stuck with [Roberts and Alito], and we’ll try to change by having some moderates in the federal courts system.” Unfortunately, Reid forgot to tell reporters why he thinks that President Obama’s activist judicial philosophy augurs the appointment of moderate judges.

This is not the first time that Sen. Reid has been confused about what a “moderate” is. Last year, he said that “out of 49 Republicans [in the Senate], we have no moderates,” except maybe for Olympia Snowe. Perhaps Reid believes that GOP senators such as Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, John McCain, Chuck Hagel, John Warner, Gordon Smith, and Richard Lugar misled the Senate by pretending to be moderate.

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