Thursday, July 18, 2013

No Nuclear Option in the Senate

My article from the July 17, 2013 issue of FrontPage Magazine:

No Nuclear Option in the Senate

By Matthew Vadum

Organized labor scored a huge victory yesterday when Republicans who had been blocking President Obama’s radical nominees lost their nerve and reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to allow confirmation votes to proceed.

The backroom political deal preserves — at least for now– the filibuster in the Senate.

As usual, Republicans got nothing in return.

Egged on by union bosses, Reid had vowed to execute a controversial parliamentary maneuver called the nuclear option in order to allow filibustered executive branch nominations to go forward and be approved with a simple majority of senators. (Republicans called it the constitutional option when they were in the majority in the Senate.) Under longtime Senate rules, the chamber will not normally proceed to a vote on legislation unless 60 senators or more vote to end debate. If the Senate is considering a change in its rules, the threshold rises to 67.

The nuclear option procedural playbook calls for the Senate’s presiding officer, who is always going to be a Democrat as long as that party is in the majority in that chamber, to rule that instead of a supermajority only a simple majority of senators is required to cut off debate. If a majority of the senators votes to uphold the presiding officer, his or her interpretation of the rules becomes a precedent. By this means the filibuster rule could be weakened or even abolished, a development that in the current environment would make it easier for President Obama to impose his economy-killing socialist agenda on the nation.

Reid gloated after his victory. “This must be a new normal,” he lectured. “Qualified executive nominees must not be blocked on procedural supermajority votes.”

As long as the Senate keeps approving Obama’s radical left-wing nominees, the Democratic majority won’t change the filibuster rule. Unlike a 2005 agreement on judicial nominees that restricted filibusters to “extraordinary circumstances,” this new bargain does not limit the use of procedural tactics aimed at stalling or blocking nominees. After the initial round of nominees is approved, the deal may yet fell apart.

The cave-in, predictably, was orchestrated on the Republican side by Sen. John McCain of Arizona. “Is it a panacea?” said the failed 2008 presidential candidate whose loss ushered in the Obama era. “No, but I think it’s an important step forward.”

“Look, we see the polling numbers,” McCain said, sucking up to the media. “Ten percent approval of Congress. Members of Congress want to work more together and get things done for the American people. We appreciate approval, obviously. That’s what politicians largely are about.”

Republicans could have allowed Reid to “nuke” the Senate and then fought back furiously by holding up congressional business until the other side cried uncle, but they chose not to bother.

Despite that warm and fuzzy feeling senators call comity that is allegedly spreading through Senate office buildings like an airborne virus, tempers are certain to flare in coming weeks as that chamber considers a series of controversial nominations for federal appellate courts. With Janet Napolitano’s retirement as Homeland Security Secretary, the Senate is expected to consider a new nominee who has yet to be named by the president. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who, like Napolitano, thinks all conservatives are terrorists, is rumored to be a contender for the post.

Meanwhile, as a result of the agreement, the Senate will soon vote on the nominations of Thomas Perez to be Labor Secretary, Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.

As part of the pact, the Senate moved forward yesterday with a vote on Richard Cordray as the first permanent director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray, whom Obama unconstitutionally recess-appointed to the position previously when the Senate wasn’t in recess, is a longtime supporter of violent community organizers. He was confirmed by the Senate in a 66 to 34 vote.

The White House agreed to withdraw the stalled NLRB nominations of Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, two individuals who somehow managed to do an end-run around required background checks. Griffin has been accused of union election improprieties and has been linked to organized crime. As he did with Cordray, the president unconstitutionally recess-appointed the two nominees to the board when the Senate was not actually recessed.

To replace Block and Griffin, within hours Obama nominated labor lawyer Kent Yoshiho Hirozawa of New York and former AFL-CIO counsel Nancy Jean Schiffer of Maryland to the board.

But why is the NLRB, which most Americans have never heard of, such a big deal?

This powerful socialist anachronism left over from the New Deal supervises union elections, investigates labor practices, and hands down rulings interpreting the National Labor Relations Act. An NLRB in the hands of the Left always seeks to expand the power of organized labor at the expense of individual rights.

While states are rushing to endorse right-to-work laws that uphold employees’ rights, the NLRB is going in the opposite direction by favoring union bosses. Obama’s toadies on the board have been hell-bent on making America more like bureaucratic, dysfunctional Europe where labor disruptions and union violence are everyday occurrences. Hirozawa and Schiffer are expected to follow suit.

Probably the worst of President Obama’s pending nominees is the Labor Department nominee, Thomas Perez. Despite his refusal to respond to congressional inquiries, this lawless community organizer is now expected to be confirmed as part of the deal.

One conservative commentator described the in-your-face radical lawyer as “one of the most loathsome figures in the thoroughly loathsome political ranks of Obama’s Justice Department,” adding that he “has overseen most of the unprecedentedly naked politicization of DoJ’s Civil Rights Division.”

In his current DoJ post, Perez, a longtime ally of ACORN and Project Vote, led the Obama administration’s assault on voter ID laws last year. He helped to disenfranchise overseas military personnel last year by sabotaging improvements planned for the military voting system. He’s tried to force governments to accept fraud-prone matricula consular ID cards issued by Mexican consular offices. 

He was a board member of Casa de Maryland, an advocacy group for illegal aliens funded by George Soros and the late Hugo Chavez that openly encourages illegals to break the law.

Perez is apparently in favor of Saudi-style anti-blasphemy laws. He has worked with groups such as the terrorist-linked Islamic Society of North America and applauded Islamists for lobbying against airline security measures. He played a major role in enacting the Church Arson Prevention Act, legislation based on the false premise that black churches were being targeted with disproportionate frequency by arsonists.

Perez targeted Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for legal harassment because he doesn’t like Arpaio’s tough-on-crime approach, especially with respect to illegal aliens. He has refused to prosecute hate crimes committed against white Americans and played a role in the dismissal of a case involving two Philadelphia-based members of the New Black Panther Party who intimidated white voters on Election Day 2008.

Perez is proud of his role in inflating the mortgage bubble. He’s a fierce defender of financial affirmative action programs that forced banks to lend money to uncreditworthy borrowers.

Perez likens bankers to KKK members, arguing that racial discrimination is afoot whenever a member of a minority group is turned down for a loan. The only difference between bankers and Klansmen is that bankers discriminate “with a smile” and “fine print,” but they are “every bit as destructive as the cross burned in the neighborhood,” Perez said.

Republicans may not have to put up with the Democrats’ strong-arming in the not-too-distant future.

The New York Times golden boy of psephological statistics, Nate Silver, is now putting the odds of a GOP Senate takeover as “close to even-money” in the 2014 elections.

“Our best guess … is that Republicans will end up with somewhere between 50 and 51 Senate seats after 2014, putting them right on the threshold of a majority.”

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