When U.S. Senate Democrats (including Sen. Jeanne Shaheen) voted on Thursday to change the Senate rules so that executive and judicial nominees save for the Supreme Court could no longer be filibustered, yet another blow was struck to the rule of law. It has become a hallmark of the Obama years.
Senate rules require a 2/3 majority vote for any rule to be changed. Until Thursday they also required 60 votes to approve any vote on the confirmation of presidential nominees.
When they were in the minority eight years ago, Senate Democrats vigorously defended this rule. "The filibuster is the last check we have against the abuse of power in Washington," said Sen. Harry Reid.
A young senator named Barack Obama said, "What (Americans) don't expect is for one party - be it Republican or Democrat - to change the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet," The Wall Street Journal reported.
But that was when Republicans ran the Senate. Harry Reid is now in charge, and Majority Leader Harry Reid has a very different philosophy than Minority Leader Harry Reid.
In both 2005 and 2013, the fight was over judicial nominations. We think judicial nominees ought to have a vote, generally speaking. But to change the Senate rules as Reid did - with a declaration that the rules were changed, followed by a simple majority vote to confirm the declaration, in violation of current rules - is to put an end to all rules.
As Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in opposing Reid on Thursday, "to change it in the way we changed it today means there are no rules except as the majority wants them. It is a very major shift in the very nature of this institution if the majority can do whatever it wants by changing the rules whenever it wants, with a method that has not been used before in this body to change the very rules of this body."
Sen. Levin was one of only three Democrats to oppose Reid's abuse of power. If only more had put principle before politics.