Lamar Alexander Deplores the Dysfunction He Wrought

Blaming Harry Reid for filibuster mania.
Photographer: Melissa Golden/Bloomberg

With the Senate planning to resume working on nominations next week, I have to ask: Seriously, Lamar Alexander ?

"I think it would be better for the Senate and the country if he would go ahead and confirm the nominations as they come up," Alexander said, noting that new debate limits on lower-level positions established at the start of the current Congress mean more nominations can be moved in the course of a few days...
Alexander said he doesn't think the events of last November should totally put the brakes on the confirmation process.
"I mean, they're piling up. It concerns me," Alexander said of pending nominations. "We could work Mondays; we could work Fridays."

That's from Roll Call earlier this week, but it's still worth talking about. Because the idea of Alexander blaming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats for dragging out nominations really is extraordinary chutzpah. "We could work Mondays?" The "work" the Senate has been doing on nominations is mostly just a matter of sitting around waiting for the clock to run out. A clock that is being set not by Reid, but by Republicans who insist on delaying nominations, including those that they themselves support.

Alexander, in particular, deserves no slack. Not just because he famously pledged never to support a judicial filibuster even when a Democrat was in the White House; I expect, and don't care about, procedural hypocrisy. No, Alexander deserves no slack because he poses as a friend of Senate traditions and norms, but failed to step up when he (and two other Republicans) could have prevented majority-imposed reform by surrendering in the blockade of D.C. Circuit Court judges.

So what is he up to now? Pretending that filibusters of executive branch and district court nominations are normal. Even when he and the other Republicans don't actually oppose the nominees, let alone intend to speak out on the Senate floor against them. But they do intend to filibuster them, and force cloture votes. And once the filibusters are defeated, they still insist on making everyone wait while they don't use the available post-cloture time.

Yes, Democrats are guilty of ratcheting up obstruction by filibustering a handful of George W. Bush Circuit Court judges before agreeing on a compromise that allowed most of them to be confirmed. But that's not even remotely comparable to the blanket filibusters on everything that have been the case since January 2009.

This is about chewing up Senate time by filibustering nominations that Republicans don't oppose. Alexander could come out against this practice. Instead, he's blaming Reid. Just awful.

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