April 20, 2009

Filibustering Presidential Nominees

There has been rising speculation of the potential use of the filibuster in regards to Dawn Johnson and Harold Koh.  Walter Dellinger takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to remind the GOP of its previous stance against the use of the filibuster and to lay out his case for why it shouldn't be used, particularly against nominees who serve the president.
"In the past, Republican senators have publicly asserted that it is either "unacceptable" or "unconstitutional" to filibuster an up-or-down vote of a nominee submitted by the president for Senate "advice and consent." I cannot believe they would now abandon that principle.
...
I have disagreed with filibusters of executive-branch nominees whether done by Democrats or Republicans. But Democrats have at least been consistent in maintaining, under presidents of both parties, that filibusters were permissible. Those who would now filibuster the nominations of Mr. Koh and Ms. Johnsen would engage in activity that they recently condemned in stark terms."
I happen to agree with Dellinger on the use of the filibuster for nominees that serve the president, but his hypocrisy argument falls flat.  As far as I am concerned the GOP made its case against the use of the filibuster throughout the Bush administration and lost.  As Dellinger notes:
"Many Democrats have in the past defended filibustering executive-branch nominees. Democrats filibustered Mr. Bush's nomination of John Bolton to the United Nations post, and blocked his nominations of Eugene Scalia and Otto Reich by delaying votes. Some judicial candidates, like Miguel Estrada, were also subject to actual or threatened filibusters. Judicial candidates, however, present different considerations. Unlike judges, executive-branch nominees work for the president, and he should have greater discretion in deciding who serves in his administration."
The Democrats' argument seems to have taken the day.  I see no reason for the GOP to self-handicap its efforts to oppose those nominees of President Obama it deems particularly offensive.  For the Democrats to somehow criticize the GOP use of the filibuster reeks of the same hypocrisy Dellinger attempts to dole out to the GOP.  The New York Times has previously attempted this same "for me but not for thee" approach to the filibuster, but for me it just rings hollow.

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