April 6th, 2017

A little nuclear option history

Here’s a bit of nuclear option history:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was smugly looking ahead to the presidency of Hillary Clinton last October and the possibility that Senate Republicans might dare to filibuster the new president’s Supreme Court pick.

“[I]t’s clear to me that if the Republicans try to filibuster another circuit court judge, but especially a Supreme Court justice, I’ve told ’em how and I’ve done it, not just talking about it,” he told Talking Points Memo in an interview published that month. “I did it in changing the rules of the Senate. It’ll have to be done again.”

More than five months later, the filibuster is on the other foot.

Please read the whole thing.

The current fight over SCOTUS nominees that led to this move today was started with the Democrats’ blocking Reagan nominee Robert Bork, led by Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy. Here is Kennedy’s attack on Bork at the time:

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.

Sound familiar? Absurd hyperbole—but it worked, and Bork was not seated. In fact, it really really worked, because the judge who ultimately became a SCOTUS justice instead of Bork was Anthony Kennedy, the current swing justice on the Court.

Which brings us to more recent history:

When Republicans filibustered some of Obama’s judicial picks in 2013, Reid and the Democrats changed the rules.

Then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned them at the time: “I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you will regret this, and you may regret it at lot sooner than you think.”

It’s four years later. However, I doubt the Democrats regret it at all. They knew this would probably happen if the GOP ever got the Senate and the presidency back—they just didn’t think that would happen, so they thought they were safe. In other words, they don’t regret the nuclear option, they regret the election results of 2016. Another reason they don’t regret what they did in 2013 is that going nuclear allowed them to complete their takeover of the federal courts, which during Obama’s tenure went from being somewhat conservative to being controlled by liberals. This has already paid off in a host of ways for the Democrats, based on recent federal court decisions by Obama appointees.

As I said, what the Democrats deeply regret is losing the 2016 election, which put the GOP in charge and able to take advantage of the nuclear option themsevles. Republicans are now poised to make their own federal judge appointments as well as this present SCOTUS appointment. What goes around does indeed come around.

Here’s a question, though: if the Democrats had not gone nuclear in 2013, would the GOP have done it now? I don’t know the answer, but my gut feeling is “no.”

15 Responses to “A little nuclear option history”

  1. F Says:

    Good analysis, Neo, and a wonderful lookback at the history of Dingy Harry. (I generally eschew the use of use of such perjorative titles, but Dingy Harry was my Senator and I feel entirely justified doing so.)

    As for the Democrats continued harping on the refusal of the Senate to consider Merrick Garland, that is total obfuscation. They oppose Gorsuch precisely because he is head and shoulders better than left-leaning Justices like Kagan and Sotomayor, who are Justices more for their ideological purity than judicial brilliance. Gorsuch will show the others up.

    Now the big question is, what happens when a left-leaning Justice disappears in the coming 1-2 years? Who will be named then? I have heard Schumer offered a “deal” whereby Gorsuch would have been supported by enough Democrat Sentors that the nuclear option could have stayed on the shelf. What Schumer wanted in exchange was “a voice” in selection of the next Justice. Talk about a Faustian bargain! If it is true, my hat is off to McConnell for refusing it.

  2. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    When someone tells you that the nuclear option to confirm Neil Gorsuch is historic or “unprecedented”, remind them that:
    It is unprecedented to filibuster a Supreme Court Nomination.
    Never been done before.
    Until democrats did it.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “What Schumer wanted in exchange was “a voice” in selection of the next Justice. “ F

    If I were McConnell I would have seriously considered it and probably have agreed. Then when it was time for the next SCOTUS replacement, a far more decisive choice than Gorsuch… I would renege on the deal and then go to the nuclear option.

    My answer to the howls of protest would be, you fight fire with fire and alls fair in war, which your side long ago declared upon us.


    Great point for rebuttal.

  4. CapnRusty Says:

    Many people held their noses and voted for Mr Trump. They did the right thing.

  5. Bill West Says:

    A bit of history on the filibuster: It comes from a Dutch word meaning “pirate”. The tactic of endless debate to delay a vote dates back to the Romans. It was used frequently in the English Parliament. It was frequently used by slave-state and segregationist senators to block civil rights legislation. The vote to end debate, culture, was proposed by progressive President Wilson in 1917. Sixty-seven (I think) votes were needed to end debate. That was changed to sixty in the early seventies. It was changed again in 2013 and again today. If a progressive moans about a lost “right” of the minority, point to one of the founders of their movement.

  6. Bill Says:

    Again. All the finger pointing and “they did would have done it first” assertions won’t mean a thing in the future when the GOP no longer holds all the keys and we deeply, deeply wish we had the filibuster to help prevent whatever progressive steamroller is squashing us flat.

  7. Artfldgr Says:

    On 50 missiles reported as Almost 60….

    Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan: You! You could have killed him at will!
    Herger the Joyous: Yes?
    Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan: Well, why the deception?
    Herger the Joyous: Deception is the point! Any fool can calculate strength. That one has been doing it since we arrived. Now he has to calculate what he can’t see.
    Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan: And fear… what he doesn’t know. [Herger makes a head-smacking gesture]
    Buliwyf: As you say, foolish. And expensive. We will miss Angus tonight; we will miss his sword.

  8. Artfldgr Says:

    Russian warship steams toward US destroyers that launched Syria strikes

    A Russian warship entered the eastern Mediterranean Friday and was heading toward the area where two U.S. Navy destroyers launched missile strikes into Syria, Fox News has learned.

    The Russian frigate, Admiral Grigorovich RFS-494, crossed through the Bosphorus Strait “a few hours ago” from the Black Sea, according to a U.S. defense official.

    The Russian warship is now in the eastern Mediterranean steaming in the direction of the U.S. warships.

    The Admiral Grigorovich is armed with advanced Kalibr cruise missiles.

    Also Friday, one of the American destroyers that launched the missiles into Syria started heading to an undisclosed location to rearm.

    The U.S. struck a Syrian airbase in retaliation for this week’s gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians, including infants and small children, military officials said.

    more at link
    but this was easy to see coming
    the set up was the repeat of 1932
    except that hey want the communists to win over the fascists (hillary) and had ot make that out of a capitalist… but this conflict, korea, sekaku and paracell islands and more… all left like a big stinking turd on the doorstep..

    too bad we didnt talk about it
    we would have been the first to see and get it

    remember the first was fascism and communism teamed up with islam to crush jews and the west right after weimar debased its cultural self…

    then communism turned tail to stay alive, switched sides from their own pact, and helped crush fascism, and tried to then take germany but got only half (and lots of satelite states they later lost too, and the camps to kill with at yalta)

    this time, communism and fascism teamed up, but the fasacist lost the race, thats the variation in the repeat.. and the idea is to crush the fascist and the US bcomes what?

    oh. you could read this stuff and ideas about moving forwards like this if you read the mitrohken archive, and the defectors like Golytsin who laid it out for us to ignore…

    good luck we shall see how it develops
    on anothner note, the economy is roaring and breaking records… maybe those dingbat kids will realiez they been punking themselves in the name of a humanity that dont care if they exist or not

  9. OldTexan Says:

    Gorsuch voted in for the Supreme Court and to be sworn in on Monday and that makes my Trump vote last November validated.

  10. Artfldgr Says:

    Ny times 2006

    The Times’ long exposé on Iraq’s chemical munitions, welcome in many respects, is, however, not quite the news the Old Gray Lady seems to think. Already in June 2006, Republican Congressmen pressed the Army to release information on chemical shells found in Iraq. The Army reported that some 500 munitions, containing mustard or sarin nerve agent, had been discovered since May 2004 (the Times’ figure is ten times larger.) The Army report added that such agents, while degrading over time, “remain hazardous and potentially lethal.” The Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, responded, “Duelfer after 18 months was not able to find this stuff…What does this say about all of the other issues that continue to be raised [such as] stuff transported to Syria?”

    the Atlantic 2012

    Syria’s admission Monday that it has chemical weapons has revived a controversial theory about one of the biggest intelligence failures in American history: The non-existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

    The theory holds that Saddam Hussein did in fact have huge stockpiles of chemical weapons all along, but they were never uncovered by U.S. forces because he secretly smuggled them out to Syria days before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. If true, it’s the type of revelation that would recaste the Iraq War in the history books, which is why neocons have begun reviving it as evidence of the “wisdom of Bush’s Mideast policies.” But that’s one ginormous “if,” and it’s a theory many media observers have dismissed.

    Still, because Syria’s admission Monday was the most “direct confirmation” of the stockpiles’ existence, reporters have begun revisiting their notes and re-exploring the facts of that fateful period. Here’s the case for and against the Saddam chemical weapons handoff.

    the daily beast a few days ago 04/05/2017
    If Assad had been able to keep his up-until-2013-undeclared arsenal, he could have waged a campaign similar to Saddam’s, which included the gassing in 1988 of the largely Kurdish city of Halabja, where as many as 5,000 people are believed to have died.
    As bad as it was, the Obama-Putin deal in 2013 prevented Assad from stampeding his opposition in that way. And it’s clear Assad wished he still had such resources, which is why he has improvised many chemical attacks with the much cruder and less effective industrial chlorine gas. He now appears to have dipped into a hidden supply of nerve agents, or acquired some from outside (from, say North Korea, which uses VX as an assassin’s tool, and which previously helped him try to develop nuclear weapons). It would not be surprising if Assad uses these agents. He is out to end this war, at least in the west of the country, and whatever the uproar, he can expect his potential victims to live in terror, now, as they never have before.
    Who can stop him? Once again, it will almost certainly have to be the Russians. We’ll see if Trump can cut a deal with Putin as good as the one Obama got.

    but then he USED THEM

  11. neo-neocon Says:


    Your point is an empty one, because nothing the GOP could have done would have preserved the filibuster once the Democrats took over the Senate, which they will some day.

    It’s gone, and it was gone before the GOP nuked it. They (and we) could wish all we want; it doesn’ t matter and is irrelevant, and was irrelevant before the vote for the change. You might as well wish to go back in time.

  12. DNW Says:

    ” OldTexan Says:
    April 7th, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    Gorsuch voted in for the Supreme Court and to be sworn in on Monday and that makes my Trump vote last November validated.”

    Your fellow Texan, Cruz, laid it out: An election too important to remain neutral over; notwithstanding wounded, or even justly wounded feelings.

    You didn’t have to love the Trumpster to have voted for him then, or love him now, to applaud this result.

    Here’s hoping for more.

  13. DNW Says:

    ” Bill Says:
    April 7th, 2017 at 7:13 am

    Again. All the finger pointing and “they did would have done it first” assertions won’t mean a thing in the future when the GOP no longer holds all the keys and we deeply, deeply wish we had the filibuster to help prevent whatever progressive steamroller is squashing us flat.”

    Well, you have two, at least, years to prepare your own steamroller. If you feel it’s worth the bother.

  14. Bill Says:

    Neo: “Your point is an empty one, because nothing the GOP could have done would have preserved the filibuster once the Democrats took over the Senate, which they will some day.

    It’s gone, and it was gone before the GOP nuked it. They (and we) could wish all we want; it doesn’ t matter and is irrelevant, and was irrelevant before the vote for the change. You might as well wish to go back in time.”

    Neo, I don’t often disagree with you, and I always respect your opinion. I also really desire not to become a pest on your excellent blog.

    I also don’t expect to sway you at all here.

    But this idea that “it was already gone” – well, it’s factually false. It wasn’t already gone. It’s gone now because the GOP nuked it.

    We celebrate because we have a good conservative on the SC now and – because of our cr@ppy political culture over the past 5 or 6 decades, an unelected SC justice has more power almost as the President, especially if he/she is the swing vote. So any blowing away of past legislative safeguards is justified. We’ll be cursing when the tables are turned, and they might be turned as early as 2020. That’s all I’m saying.

    One interesting thing that’s happened in this space is the continued upping of the ante in the comments threads – this isn’t political disagreement anymore, now that everyone’s OK with bringing an H-bomb to a knife fight and you have commenters seriously suggesting we literally line up our political opponents against the wall and shoot them.

    If the world ends in a nuclear holocaust, it will be because of this kind of reasoning – if we don’t shoot first, they will. I know that’s a bit of hyperbole, but I don’t think I’m that far off the mark. Our country is going to continue careening in more extreme rightward and leftward angles until some sense of sanity and (yeah, i said it) reaching across the aisle starts to happen. I don’t expect that from the amoral cipher we have in the WH.

    So, yeah, I’m going to speak out against that kind of reasoning, even though I know it doesn’t do any good. Because the alternative is not a political future I’m interested in.

    I’m certainly no liberal. But I’m on a (mirror-image to your) journey out of the GOP and out of the “religious” right as well. I’m looking for thoughtful leaders who do more than just play chicken with their opponents 24×7 (to cheering partisan crowds), and who have a moral center and principles that actually mean something to them. Our political culture has become so end-justify-the-means that I could sum up pretty much every counter-argument offered to my posts here that way – “Bill, if we don’t do X they’ll just do Y so grab a hand grenade (and a suitcase nuke if one’s handy) and hunker down for Civil War 2”


  15. neo-neocon Says:


    I certainly don’t think you’re a pest!

    We just disagree strongly on this topic.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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