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On Procedure

Posted By Quin Hillyer On January 9, 2013 @ 12:21 pm In posts | Comments Disabled

Ashton, just to be clear (in response to your post [1]), I do understand the procedures. Here’s the thing: There is plenty of time to gauge, from press statements and elsewhere, a rather good sense of how many senators support a nomination, and therefore whether or not it will be killed in an up or down vote. My contention is that a senator seeing the tea leaves going in favor of Hagel could consider a hold before the nomination technically reaches the floor. I do not necessarily advocate this, but I think it’s worth looking into.

Sure, a majority leader can disregard a hold, technically. But if he does so, members of one’s own party, looking to protect their own prerogatives, are then MORE likely to join the “holder” in a subsequent filibuster.

But the main thing I advocate is not a hold, but the willingness to filibuster this thing to death. Of course I know that Reid is threatening to kill the filibuster, but there is blowback on his side, too. The rules will be determined in just a few weeks; from what I have read, the most likely outcome is that he will kill the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed to debate in the first place, but will probably not change the rules to disallow a filibuster on the motion to “call the question” — in other words, to end debate and hold a straight up-or-down vote.

Because this motion comes already after at least some debate has been held, it is perfectly consistent with my agreement with Ashton’s advocacy of using open debate to try to kill the nomination. Indeed, I think enough Democrats are skittish about Hagel that the nomination can indeed by killed in a straight up or down vote — and that there will be enough clear statements of Democratic opposition that it will be safe to allow it to go to such a vote.

BUT… BUT… BUT! — if it looks like Obama has strong-armed enough Dems that Hagel will get through, or has a good chance of doing so, THEN I think a filibuster is in order to keep debate going (technically speaking) and, in short, to forever block the nomination. By that time, the rules will be set already. Reid of course could then still use the nuclear option, but it would be mighty risky of him to do that after having already agreed to rules for this Congress that do allow a filibuster before proceeding to a final vote.

So I am not “wrong” about procedures. You may disagree with my advocacy of certain procedures, but that’s different from not understanding them fully.

And, for the record, I am not a huge fan of killing ANYTHING with a permanent filibuster. I am an advocate of a different kind of filibuster reform, which I have written about elsewhere. But the rules and their use should be consistent from party to party. Unless a fair-minded, apolitical reform is introduced, and absent serious constitutional (letter OR spirit) concerns that apply in the case of judicial nominees but not executive branch nominees, I think that a precedent as recent as the filibuster against John Bolton is one that should apply the first time the shoe is on the other party’s foot, so to speak, in terms of a major executive branch nomination.

This is especially true when the concerns go, as they do with Hagel, not just to mere political differences, but to major policy misjudgments, major evidence of unseemly bias, and character concerns.

Just as no anti-black racist should ever be confirmed for a high post, so to should no anti-Semite be so confirmed. This is basic stuff, getting to the very heart of moral fitness for office. I think there is solid evidence that Hagel has anti-Semitic (not just anti-Israel’s foreign policy) tendencies, and that he is also dangerously unwilling to even acknowledge obvious proof of terrorism if the terrorism in question is mostly aimed at Israel. He cannot, must not, ever, be confirmed.


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[1] your post: http://cfif.org/v/freedom_line_blog/16904/quin-is-wrong-on-procedure-right-on-substance/

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