Just a few days ago, Mitch McConnell was telling us how cooperative he and the rest of the Republican Senators have been with President Obama and how it was he who will not work with them. A recent report from PolitiFact on the truth of Harry Reid’s assertion that they have blocked nearly as many of Obama’s nominees as all other Presidents before him would seem to call that claim into question.
As Reid was about to call for the “nuclear option” eliminating the rule which required a 60 vote majority to end a filibuster on a Presidential nominee Senate Democrats released a graphic demonstrating just how far out of hand these filibusters have gotten. It shows that prior to this President the filibuster had been employed to block a Presidential nominee on 86 occasions in the history of the nation. Under this administration it has been used 82 times already, with more than three years to go until the end of the President’s term.
This is a clear attempt to stop this President from doing anything, even choosing those he wants to work within his administration. The animosity toward him is unprecedented, it is a hatred never before directed at any President, even Richard Nixon was not hated by his opposition as much as Obama is hated by the Republicans in Congress.
In response to numerous requests to validate or refute the chart and the claim by the Democrat, PolitiFact looked into the claim and decided that the chart was, in fact, worded improperly.
Original chart (Click to enlarge)
Chart as modified by PolitiFact (Click to enlarge)
PolitiFact looked at the documentation and found that the numbers were right but that language the graphic used to describe them was wrong.
Citing the most recent document from the Congressional Research Service, a memo which said, “In brief, out of the 168 cloture motions ever filed (or reconsidered) on nominations, 82 (49 percent) were cloture motions on nominations made since 2009.”
In other words it was not the number of nominees which were blocked but only the number of cloture votes that were blocked, essentially a matter of semantics. It is also even more damning when the corrected numbers of nominees are considered, prior to Obama there were 68 nominations successfully blocked, in the entire history of the country. This administration has had 79 nominations blocked, in other words instead of 49% as the Democrats had claimed, nearly 54% of all nominations ever blocked have been his nominations.
Senators have always been allowed to filibuster an appointment that they do not have the votes to defeat and a super majority or 60 votes were required for cloture to allow the nomination to be brought for an up or down vote, prior to 1975 a 67 vote majority was required. This is what the Republican minority in the Senate has been using to prevent approval of nearly all of President Obama’s nominees.
With the “nuclear option” Reid and the Democrats have changed the Senate rules to allow for a simple majority to pass a cloture vote on Presidential appointments, the 60 vote rule will stand for legislation and Supreme Court nominations.
McConnell and his Republican colleagues are of course enraged but this is a solution that they themselves brought about, if they had not used this tool inappropriately it never would have happened. They were not using it to block nominees that they did not think qualified, they were using it as a blackmail tool, holding up nominations and vowing only to approve them if the President conceded to their demands on legislative measures. They knew that it was an inappropriate action yet they used it over and over to undermine his effectiveness.