Last week, Senator Harry Reid took the first steps to break the gridlock in Washington by standing up for our democratic system and reforming the filibuster. This procedural rule change allows President Obama’s nominees to receive a simple majority rather than 60 votes, and prevents a few obstructionists from playing political games with highly qualified nominees.
Remember back in July when Gina McCarthy’s nomination to become the next Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator was being held up in the Senate? Well, it actually had nothing to do with her qualifications, but instead a few Republicans in the minority wanted to halt action on environmental protections. And we know this because Republicans boycotted McCarthy’s Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation vote, even after she answered every single one of their more than 1,000 questions, an unprecedented number.
They knew she was extremely well qualified to serve at the helm of the EPA, as Republicans and Democrats had easily confirmed her in 2009 to head the EPA’s clean air division. They confirmed her then, because Gina McCarthy is a proven problem solver who has shown throughout her career the ability to work across the aisle. She has worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations, including for Governor Romney, as his energy and climate adviser in Massachusetts.
McCarthy was eventually confirmed with 59 votes, but that was after Republicans and Democrats struck a deal to hold a straight up-or-down vote on her nomination in order to avoid Senate rule changes limiting the minority's right to filibuster executive branch nominees.
This time was different because the Republicans were not going to make a deal. Instead, they were going to leave three seats on the D.C. Circuit Court vacant by abusing the filibuster and blocking a vote on President Obama’s nominees. What’s more, they have barely even bothered to challenge the qualifications of these nominees, all of whom received the highest possible marks from the American Bar Association. Instead, they claim it unnecessary to fill the vacancies.
This is an outrage, as the D.C. Circuit Court is widely considered the second-most important court in the country as this court has jurisdiction, and often the final say, on many important issues that affect people’s day-to-day lives. For example, this court has exclusive jurisdiction over many of our country’s most crucial environmental regulations. This means that on these regulations the D.C. Circuit is the only court that will hear such cases, and the decisions can only be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s high time these openings are filled so that this important court can go back to weighing key issues facing our country in a timely manner
Fortunately, Senator Reid and the Democrats finally decided enough was enough, and took the steps necessary to ensure that these and other nominees can get the fair up-or-down votes they deserve. Contact Senator Reid and thank him for his leadership on reforming the filibuster.
(Photograph taken by Talk Radio News Service)