(Note: I found this essay in my draft box, written about a month ago. I must have forgotten to publish it. Since I don't believe in throwing away writing, I am publishing it anyway, a little late. It still holds true.)
It has been God knows how long since the Senate has done anything that is less than positively destructive to America.
But today they did it, voting 52-48 to do away with the filibuster for presidential appointments.
It's about damn time. While I think the filibuster has some use in slowing down objectionable legislation, it is crazy that U.S. senators are able use a maneuver originally designed to block legislation to prevent the president from appointing people to public office. The Constitution gives the power of appointment to the president, and he should be allowed to exercise it.
In recent years, the use of the filibuster to block nominations has been increasingly abused. At one time, when a senator filibustered a bill or an appointment, he or she did so for reasons relevant to the case. For example, if Senator X wanted to block the appointment of Mr. Y, he filibustered because he didn't like Mr. Y for some reason, and felt he was unfit for office.
This is no longer the case. Last week Senator Lindsey Graham stated on national television that he intended to filibuster all Obama judicial nominations until the White House agreed to testify in Congress about the Bengazi incident. Now, let's allow that the Bengazi matter is an important matter that needs to be further investigated (even though I don't think it is). Even so, what does Bengazi have to do with judicial nominations? Absolutely nothing. Graham is simply saying that if he doesn't get his way, he doesn't intend to do his job, which is to review and confirm (or deny, by a fair vote) nominations for federal courts.
In theory, I don't object to filibusters, when used sparingly, and appropriately. But it is not appropriate to filibuster an appointment to achieve aims that have nothing to do with the appointment. Senators are not elected to settle scores, nor are they elected to simply keep the other party in check. Their primary reason for getting a paycheck courtesy of the taxpayers is to keep the government functioning. If they can't do that, they need to be fired.
When you abuse a privilege, it is taken away from you. Republicans ought to know something about personal responsibility. They preach it 8 days a week.
Right now, the howling Republicans are saying to the Democrats: Just you wait. We will make you pay. Make them pay how? How much worse can it get in Washington? At this stage, the amount of cooperation in Congress is zero. You can't take something from nothing, and zero multiplied is still zero.
So who cares? Let them howl. One day they will all be dead, and people who give a crap will be in charge. Maybe. But not because of them.