Filibustering Obama's Supreme Court Picks?
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 04:29:50 PM EST
We all know that during the 110th Congress, Senate Republicans shattered the all-time record for filibusters, obstructing more legislation than any party's caucus in the previous 109 Congresses. Yet as bad as that was, and making 60 votes the requirement for virtually all non-budgetary legislation, the GOP's latest threats nevertheless stand out as particularly atrocious.
President Barack Obama should fill vacant spots on the federal bench with former President Bush's judicial nominees to help avoid another huge fight over the judiciary, all 41 Senate Republicans said Monday.
In other words, Republicans are threatening a filibuster of judges if they're not happy.
It's never been the rule that a minority caucus in the Senate has had the power to filibuster a President's Supreme Court nominee. Back in 1991, the Democrats did not force the Republicans to come up with 60 votes to put Clarence Thomas on the Court -- and they had 48 votes (including two Republicans) in opposition to the far right jurist. Similarly, the Democrats opted against filibustering Samuel Alito even though 42 members of their caucus opposed his nomination.
Indeed, only once in the history of the United States has a party decided to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee, which the Republicans (what a shock that it was the Republicans, not the Democrats) did back in 1968 when sitting Associate Justice Abe Fortas was nominated by Lyndon Johnson to be elevated to the position of Chief Justice.
The filibuster of Fortas was an abomination four decades ago, just as the filibuster of a nominee of Barack Obama to the high court would be an abomination today. So today's Senate Republicans deserve a great deal of ridicule and excoriation for even attempting to make the threat (which, by the way, I am still skeptical they will have the gall to follow through on).