A Skeptical Take

February 14, 2013 6:58 a.m.

TPM Reader SM asks just what serious consequences Harry Reid can possibly threaten …

If you guys will keep my name out of this (used to work in DC, probably will again), I have some thoughts and questions I wanted to share.

What am I missing on the Hagel filibuster? How has Harry Reid not screwed the pooch here?

He goes to the Senate floor and says, “There are going to be serious consequences for this delay.” For the military and the country, sure there are. But for Senate Republicans, there are going to be no consequences at all. Assuming that they have the 41 votes to block the nomination–or at least delay it, what is Harry Reid going to do about it? How are the Republicans going to face any “serious consequences”? He’s got nothing against them.

Reid’s failure to enact real filibuster reform looks like it could cripple the President’s second term. Hagel is delayed or blocked. Cordray is blocked. Any serious legislation will be blocked until its had its teeth ripped out by (former Clinton impeachment manager and current “moderate”) Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins.

And the biggest issue that no one ever talks about is the federal judiciary. Granted the President has not done a great job in making appointments, but the people he has appointed, Reid has let languish. There are four (!!!!) vacancies currently on the DC Circuit and while the President has only two nominees pending, neither can get past the Senate Republicans. If those two got onto the Court, the DC Circuit would, at long last, be close to parity.

Which brings us to the biggest reason failing to fix the filibuster was a huge mistake. If the GOP gets away with blocking Hagel, a decorated veteran and a Republican, I’m willing to bet just about anything that the President’s next SCOTUS nominee is DOA unless he nominates a pro-lifer.

Reid had one chance to ensure the President could get his nominees through and he failed. The bureaucracy, the courts, and the American people–not the GOP–are the ones who are going to face “serious consequences” for the GOP’s actions.

This is rough for Reid on a few levels. But the primary one is this: Reid held back on filibuster reform on the premise (crazy to most of us) that he had some good faith understanding that there would be some relaxation of the abuse of the filibuster. But here on the first chance, Republicans use it in a wholly unprecedented way. And there aren’t many filibuster precedents still standing. How does he get around the conclusion he got played.

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