Despite a three and a half hour meeting in the Old Senate Chamber, very little of the 19th century inspiration rubbed off. The two parties emerged from the symbolic space late Monday night with the makings of at least a temporary cease fire on the Senate’s filibuster rules. Although the media is reporting that the chamber finally arrived at a deal, some conservatives might disagree. The word “deal” implies that Republicans actually got something in exchange for their deep concessions on the confirmation process. Instead, it seems that Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Obama were the big winners of the day — especially since the GOP promised a quick vote on five of the White House’s most outrageous nominees.
At the heart of the debate were the Senate’s filibuster rules, which gives the minority party at least one weapon to stop the President from appointing unqualified people to important positions. Regardless of what Harry Reid is saying now, both parties have been fond of the filibuster when they aren’t in the majority. And why not? It’s one of the few tools a minority can use to block the majority’s agenda.
Senator Reid, in an aggressive play, threatened to manipulate parliamentary procedure to change Senate rules so that it would only take a simple majority — not 60 votes — to end a filibuster. Knowing that would only empower Democrats more, the GOP threw up their hands and gave the Left what it wanted: confirmation votes on five of the President’s most extreme nominees. In exchange, Senator Reid promised to keep the 60-vote threshold in place — for the time being.
Republicans had a chance to negotiate something better: Reid’s word that his party wouldn’t change the Senate’s rules between now and the next election. Their failure means that the next time the GOP tries to block a White House nominee, the Senate will be back to square one — with Senator Reid’s finger on the trigger of the “nuclear option” to change the rules. Even the Democrats’ offer to withdraw two of the President’s nominees, those named to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was in recess, wasn’t really a victory for Republicans because federal appeals courts had already declared their appointments unconstitutional.
Unfortunately for voters, the damage of Monday’s deal runs a lot deeper than the GOP’s image. As a result of this “compromise,” Americans may be stuck with one of the most radical Secretaries ever to darken the Labor Department’s door. Thomas Perez, the current head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, also won the opportunity to have an up-or-down vote as part of Tuesday’s agreement. One of the most controversial figures on the President’s payroll, Perez’s conduct has been so questionable that the White House’s own Inspector General called him to the carpet in a 258-page report released earlier this year. He’s been accused of workplace harassment, lying, and corruption in a job marked by an extreme social ideology and inexplicable cover-ups.
Among other things, Perez has been rebuked by judges for his serial harassment of pro-life protestors and criticized by others for his open hostility to religious liberty. House leaders were so troubled by Perez’s nomination that they took the unusual step of opposing his confirmation in a lengthy letter. “Prior to becoming an Assistant Attorney General,” members explain, “Mr. Perez worked for Casa de Maryland, which trains illegal aliens on ways to avoid capture…” For these and other reasons outlined in FRC’s backgrounder, we urge you to contact your senators and ask them to vote “no” on the President’s pick!