Handshakes, Assholes, and Idiots

Caitlin HalliganThe Associated Press reported this morning, Senate Republicans block Caitlin Halligan, Nominee to DC Appeals Court for Second Time. She got enough votes, of course. It is just de rigueur that Republicans filibuster her.

So what was wrong with her? I know: we don’t expect there to have been anything wrong with her other than that a Democratic president nominated her. The truth is that if you asked the Senators who filibustered why they were against her, they would not know. They were just told by their leadership that Halligan was one of them there lib’rals, and so it was a no go.

The official reason for the filibuster was simply that halligan was “too liberal.” And what made her such a liberal firebrand?

Citing her work on lawsuits against gun manufacturers and on behalf of illegal immigrants, Republicans said Halligan is too liberal to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The National Rifle Association opposed her nomination.

This is the usual reason that Republicans are against judges. It has nothing to do with abortion or “judicial activism” (which is what conservative jurists do better today than liberals have ever). It all comes down to corporate profits. If the lobbying organization of gun manufacturers (that is: the NRA) is against her, well, we can’t have that. We can’t have someone on the court who might protect the rights of individuals; that might lead to democracy!

It all makes me think back to the second Reid-McConnell handshake deal. Is Reid happy? Is the deal all that he had hoped for? Is he pleased that Boehner can make political hay out of the fact that he, Harry Reid, wasn’t able to pass a Sequester deal because of another de rigueur filibuster? I really want to know! Because I know the day is coming when Reid will admit, “These two young, fine senators said it was time to change the rules of the Senate, and we didn’t.” I think we should just put it on an infinite loop.


Eventually, the Republicans will control the Senate and they will reform if not eliminate the filibuster. Democrats will run around claiming foul. But the new Senate Majority Leader will say something like this, “I thought Harry Reid was an idiot when he didn’t kill the filibuster.” And all the Democrats will sit in private a fume. “Next time, we won’t trust these assholes!” But of course, they will. They’re Democrats.

Old joke that seems appropriate: “When Democratic Party strategists order tanks, they always ask for a model with 5 speeds: 4 in reverse and 1 that goes forward in case they are attacked from behind.”

Update (6 March 2013 2:07 pm)

Greg Sargent notes that one of the reforms that Merkley and Udall wanted was a requirement that those filibustering get 40 votes to continue rather than requiring the majority to get 60 votes to break it. Today, the Republicans would not have been able to sustain the filibuster, because they only got 41 votes due to Reid’s procedural vote; they would only have received 40 otherwise, and Halligan would have gotten her vote. Of course, as Jonathan Bernstein notes, one of the four absent Republicans may have come in if the rules had changed. But that’s part of the point: filibustering doesn’t inconvenience the minority in the least. If none of the Republicans had voted, they still would have gotten to keep their filibuster, because non-votes just mean “Filibuster!”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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