Tuesday, March 9, 2010

That Old “Gang of Ours”....

Funny story, the last time the Senate majority threatened to use the “nuclear option,” during the 109th Congress, Liberal Republicans cooperated with some Liberal Democrats to thwart that option and they became known as “the gang of 14.”

As a result of ten consecutive Democratic filibusters over judicial nominees, Senate Republicans began to threaten to change the existing Senate rules by using what Senator Trent Lott termed the "nuclear option" and which Republicans tended to call the "constitutional option." This change in rules would eliminate the use of the filibuster to prevent judicial confirmation votes.

The theory behind the "nuclear option" was that the Senate had the right to determine its own rules and that those rules could be determined on the basis of a majority vote. Democrats objected, arguing that the Senate's rules could not be changed without a 2/3 vote as stated in the Senate Rules themselves. Republicans countered that the Senate's power to govern itself was founded in the Constitution itself and that internal Senate Rules could not deny that power.

Republicans had only a two vote majority in the 108th Congress, so they were in a weak position to implement this procedural maneuver. All that changed in 2005 after Republicans made significant gains in the 2004 elections. With President Bush winning re-election by a clear margin and the Republicans picking up 3 additional seats their 52 - 48 majority increased to a 55 - 45 GOP majority in the 109th Congress, the "nuclear option" became a much more viable.

Because of the political split in the Senate at the time (55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and 1 Independent), if just six Senators from each party could reach an agreement, they realized that these twelve could both forestall the "nuclear option" and force cloture on nominees...and so “the nuclear option” was averted.

On the Democratic side, they were, Robert Byrd (D-WV), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA - pictured above), Joe Lieberman (D-CT) (currently an independent), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Ken Salazar (D-CO). Only the former Senator Salazar is no longer serving. Joe Lieberman is now an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

On the Republican side they were, Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ - pictured above), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), John Warner (R-VA), of that group, Lincoln Chafee, Mike DeWine and John Warner are no longer serving.

In that case, John McCain a Republican reached across the aisle to, in effect, blunt the intent of his own majority Party’s advantage.

Not so funny story; Where's that gang of 14 now?

6 of the 7 Democrats are now serving.

McCain has said he’s reached across the aisle for support for blocking the current “nuclear option” – the misuse of reconciliation.

Where’s the Democrat who’d take McCain’s mantle?

Could it be that Conservatives are right, that you can never count on a Liberal to do what is right, only what is expedient for them?

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