- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2013

At this writing, Senate Democrats are threatening to exercise the “nuclear option” — a parliamentary maneuver that would end, once and for all, the minority’s ability to block presidential nominations with 41 votes. It is a safe bet that if Majority Leader Harry Reid can get away with doing this for the president’s appointees to executive branch positions, he soon will apply the rule change to his nominations for judicial nominations and then to all other Senate legislative business.

In short order, the senatorial minority would be reduced to the status of the opposition in Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood: Effectively stripped of the opportunity to resist the majority, minority members soon will be stripped of their rights more generally. In due course, so will the rest of us. (Given the Islamist character of the Muslim Brotherhood, this was a predictable outcome in Egypt. Just as predictably, it will be the Brotherhood’s ambition to re-establish such an arrangement if the United States unwisely insists on that anti-democratic organization’s restoration to power, or even its “inclusion” in the political process going forward.)

Do you think it can’t happen here or, even if does, it won’t be that bad because the House of Representatives remains in Republican hands and can serve as a check on Senate abuses?

Think again. When they were in the minority, Senate Democrats railed against the nuclear option and, with the help of seven of their Republican colleagues, constituted a “Gang of 14” to block its adoption. The Democrats knew how bad things could get if the majority was able to work its will basically unchecked. They were able to persuade enough Republicans to support them with the argument that the Republican Party may be in the minority again at some point.

Now, however, Democrats are not simply the dominant party in the Senate. It appears that they are emboldened by the prospect that the “comprehensive” immigration reform bill they have adopted will become law. If so, they understand that it likely will translate into permanent majority status for their party for the foreseeable future, probably in both houses of Congress.

Nearly as troubling as the possibility that Mr. Reid will exercise the nuclear option — and thereby take a huge step toward shredding what is left of America’s constitutional system of checks and balances after 4 years of Mr. Obama’s presidency — is another prospect: that Republicans will cease to exercise the right they have to block seriously problematic presidential appointments.

To be sure, Mr. Reid is motivated by the impediments some Republican senators have thrown up to his efforts to secure consent to the president’s controversial nominations to the National Labor Relations Board, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and Tom Perez’s appointment to be secretary of labor. Yet there has been an increasing refrain from Republican senators of late to the effect that the president is entitled to his appointees. If this is the view of the minority caucus, Republicans might as well let Mr. Reid eviscerate the filibuster and put them out of business.

The Constitution is clear: The Senate is invested with the power and the responsibility to “advise and consent” to key presidential appointments. That applies irrespective of the party in the White House. In the vast majority of cases, the exercise of this responsibility is basically a formality.

It must be more than that in instances in which the nominee is clearly unfit to serve. That point is generally accepted where there is evidence of criminal or other conduct on the part of the designated appointee that would be legally disqualifying. It should be equally true — as Democrats have long practiced — in circumstances where the policy views and record of the nominee should be disqualifying.

A case in point is the nomination of Samantha Power to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. For many years, Ms. Power has exhibited a reflexive antipathy toward this country that will make her fit right in at the U.N. but make her incapable of representing America there — let alone successfully defending its vital interests.

It remains to be seen whether Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will oblige the nominee at her hearing Wednesday to explain her publicly stated views that:

The United States has engaged in “criminal” conduct akin to that of the Nazis, warranting a formal apology like that extended by former German Chancellor Willy Brandt in 1970.

The United States should be willing to compromise its sovereignty to promote and submit to international organizations and norms.

America should be “investing in societies that actually don’t have anything to do with our national security strictly in order to benefit other people.”

Israel is morally equivalent to its terrorist and other enemies, it exercises through Jewish Americans and in its own right undue influence over U.S. policy, and the United States should cut off funding for the Israeli military and give “billions” to help build the “new state of Palestine.”

People like Ms. Power should be nowhere near positions of responsibility in which they can promote such radical views. If Senate Republicans are to ensure such an outcome, they will have to fight efforts to strip them of their ability to filibuster such deplorable presidential appointments and will have to use that ability, as well.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. was an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. He is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the syndicated program “Secure Freedom Radio.”