Yesterday may turn out to be one of the most important days in a generation for American government: Senate Democrats invoked the “nuclear option” of disallowing the use of filibusters that needlessly block Presidential appointments to the judicial and executive branches. This long overdue move is a big step forward in returning to a functional Senate. This is a big deal.
Republicans are livid, but they can only blame themselves. In their determination to oppose anything proposed by President Obama, they have used filibusters to an unprecedented degree. Of the 168 filibusters in the history of this country, half were used during the Obama Administration. This level of obstructionism creates real barriers to the government’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Agencies and judicial districts across the country have been understaffed, resulting in unnecessary backlogs. The situation has been so egregious that even Chief Justice John Roberts – a Bush appointee – urged the Senate in 2011 to stop filibustering and approve more nominees.
Yesterday’s filibuster reform does not apply to legislation or Supreme Court nominees; it does, however, allow the President to fill executive and judicial vacancies across the country. It’s past time for our government to start working again.