How The Wall Street Journal And The New York Times Flip-Flopped On The Filibuster

November 22, 2013 10:57 a.m.

This post has been updated.

Throughout the filibuster reform debate, journalists and party operatives alike have dug up scores of quotes made by Democrats and Republicans illuminating hypocritical positions taken with respect to triggering the infamous “nuclear option.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who on Thursday pushed through a historic filibuster rules change for judicial and executive nominees that spared the Supreme Court, once warned that such an “un-American” tactic would signal a death knell for the U.S. Senate and “ruin our country.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) once supported changing rules to the filibuster with a simple majority, but accused Democrats on Thursday of breaking the rules in order to exercise a “power grab.”

Even President and former Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who privately lobbied senators for the rules change this week, once said that such a move would poison Washington “to the point where no one will be able to agree on anything.”

But perhaps the biggest instances of chutzpah can be found on the editorial pages of the the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, paragons of liberal and conservative thought, respectively. (The Times explained their reversal on the matter in last year, citing unprecedented GOP obstruction with respect to Obama’s judicial nominees.)

Here’s the WSJ yesterday:

Today’s Democrats have grown up in the Saul Alinsky tradition, and on Thursday they proved it with a partisan vote to break the Senate filibuster rule for confirming judges and executive-branch nominees. The new rules will empower the party’s liberals for as long as they control the White House and Senate, but they will also set a precedent for conservatives to exploit in the future.

And here’s the WSJ in 2005:

It’s been a long time coming, but we now have an approximate date for a confrontation in the Senate on judicial nominations. Majority Leader Bill Frist has announced that if Democrats filibuster the nominations he expects to bring to the floor next month, he’ll take action. Finally.

Here’s the NYT yesterday:

From now on, if any senator tries to filibuster a presidential nominee, that filibuster can be stopped with a simple majority, not the 60-vote requirement of the past. That means a return to the democratic process of giving nominees an up-or-down vote, allowing them to be either confirmed or rejected by a simple majority.

Here’s the NYT in 2005:

The filibuster, which allows 41 senators to delay action indefinitely, is a rough instrument that should be used with caution. But its existence goes to the center of the peculiar but effective form of government America cherishes.

The WSJ yesterday:

They view the minority as an inconvenience to be rolled.

The WSJ in 2005:

What this should really be called is the “majority-vote advice-and-consent” option. The aim is to restore the Founders’ intent when they gave the Senate the responsibility of confirming or rejecting a President’s judicial picks. The Constitution requires a simple majority vote and says nothing about a super-majority of 60 being needed to stop a filibuster.

The NYT yesterday:

Democrats made the filibuster change with a simple-majority vote, which Republicans insisted was a violation of the rules. There is ample precedent for this kind of change, though it should be used judiciously.

The NYT in 2005:

The Senate has an obligation to do everything in its power to ensure the integrity of the process.

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