Harry Reid thought he was being clever when he rewrote the standing rules of the Senate to strip Republicans of their ability to block certain presidential nominees. This was called “the nuclear option,” and it was meant to clear the way for liberals to push through their agenda unimpeded.
At Mr. Reid’s urging and on straight party-line votes, Senate Democrats set aside tradition and severely curtailed the ability of senators to filibuster nominations and appointments to lower courts and executive branch positions. This “nuclear option” tipped the scales of power to favor the White House, enabling President Obama to make short-term gains, putting several far-left judges on the federal bench.
Then he put forward Michael P. Boggs, a conservative Democrat from Georgia who had been a judge and a legislator, as a nominee for a federal judgeship. Liberal senators are outraged. They want to block Mr. Boggs, but they no longer have a way to do it. Mr. Reid, it turns out, was too clever by half.
There’s more. In March, Democrats had found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to vote for the appointment of one Debo Adegbile to a high position at the Department of Justice. This former official of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund official was infamous for his advocacy of the notorious cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. This was such a bad appointment that seven Democrats couldn’t vote for him in good conscience, infuriating the liberal Democratic base. Under the old way of doing things, Republicans would have done the heavy lifting, bringing down the nomination with no Democrats forced to cast a difficult vote.
The Senate liberals who demanded that Mr. Reid eliminate the filibuster are now angry over the Boggs appointment. In the House, Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, said: “I do not have a vote in the Senate, but if I did I would vote against the confirmation of Michael Boggs.” This persuaded the Senate majority whip, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, to tell the National Journal, “I’m going to be voting no for the reasons that [Mr. Lewis] articulated.”
All the usual liberal groups insist Mr. Boggs is too socially conservative, and of course, that he’s a “racist.” He’s a white man from Georgia, isn’t he? If the Boggs nomination makes it out of the Judiciary Committee, he can thank Mr. Reid for becoming a judge with just 50 votes, not the 60 that was once the norm.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee won’t say whether Mr. Boggs will get a hearing. Mr. Reid may not take the nomination to the floor even if it clears the committee. So the Democrats in the Senate are using the same stalling and delaying tactics Mr. Reid called “obstructionism” when Republicans used them. Mr. Reid is faced with a Hobson’s choice — whether to allow the vote on the nomination or admit that there are some nominations worth filibustering.
It’s beginning to occur to the thoughtful among the Senate Democrats that some day (and maybe not so far in the future) they may wake up some dreary November morning and find themselves in the minority again. A Republican president will make nominations they want to block. They will reflect on the old folk wisdom that the wheel that goes around comes around, and they can give their thanks to Harry Reid.