White House photo
President Obama with his cabinet in 2009.
At a certain level, Senate Republicans huffing and puffing about President Obama's recent nominations seems irrelevant, since the GOP has a 45-seat minority. Unless Republicans intend to start filibustering qualified nominees -- a step without precedent in American history -- it's pretty likely the president will be able to pick the members of his own team.
And yet, the aggressive posturing continues. Republicans killed Susan Rice's nomination before it even happened, based on nothing but misplaced spite. They started trying to crush Jack Lew's nomination yesterday and Chuck Hagel's nomination last week. And don't even get me started on Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) tantrum on John Brennan's CIA nomination.
There is, however, an unintended consequence to all of this chest-thumping: Republicans are making an excellent case for filibuster reform, just as Senate Democrats have to decide on how best to proceed. Jonathan Bernstein had a good piece on this.
Political scientist Stephen Smith made a good point today: Republican knee-jerk opposition to Barack Obama’s Cabinet picks may well push reluctant Democrats to embrace stronger Senate reform. [...]
[A]ll Republicans are doing by threatening to block nomination after nomination is making it more likely that swing Democratic senators will realize that the current rules just aren't working. Overall, filibuster reform is badly needed, and there are some good ideas out there to solve a fairly difficult problem. But on executive branch nominations, reform is urgent, and easy.
When it comes to legislation, filibuster reform is far less urgent -- allowing Senate Democrats to pass bills that will quickly die in a GOP-led House is unappealing. But when it comes to confirming qualified nominees that Republicans oppose for nonsensical reasons, filibuster reform starts to look increasingly important.
GOP senators probably didn't intend to help make the case for procedural changes, but they're helping make the reformers' case for them.