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June 28, 2014 2:42 PM The Senate comity brigade was wrong

By David Atkins

I wrote a few days ago about how the Supreme Court’s decision to bar recess appointments made with less than a 10-day break in Senate proceedings increases the importance of controlling Congress.

But it also proves again that Democratic activists urging filibuster reform for Presidential appointments were right, and the status-quo-ante comity-obsessed Senators were wrong.

Now the Democrats who supported changing the rules are rightly taking plaudits for their success:

Democrats say the decision Thursday to rebuke Obama’s 2012 appointments to the National Labor Relations Board has made their change to Senate rules seem remarkably prescient. That change made it easier for the Senate to confirm Obama’s nominees, transforming recess appointments — a tactic to get around the chamber’s hurdles — into something of a relic.
That shift has already allowed Senate Democrats to squeeze through several nominees who might have been defeated under the old framework.
“Clearly this president has faced more opposition for even routine appointments, let alone important lifetime appointments like the judiciary. I’m sorry we had to change the rules and it’s created some pain in our Senate that’s still there,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “But there had to be a way for this president to lead.”

The language used by Durbin here is still odd. It has “created some pain” in “our” Senate? Too often, the language used by Senators to describe the upper chamber is reminiscent of a private drinking club or children’s clubhouse. It isn’t. Whatever advantage there might have been in the past to friendly interactions between Senators across party lines to accomplish national goals has long been erased by hardline partisanship.

That’s largely because movement conservatives largely purged northern Rockefeller Republicans from their ranks, and because the old Dixiecrats who liked New Deal policies as long as they didn’t benefit minorities too much are gratefully a relic of the past. So on most issues not related to national security, there’s frankly very little reason for Senators to “reach across the aisle” anymore.

The clubby comity so prized by Senators now serves little purpose beyond the worst kind of bipartisanship on behalf of wealthy corporate interests and military contractors. It would be far better for Senators to worry more about how well their own views match those of their constituents, than how well they get along with one another.

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