Exit Reid, Enter Schumer

Harry Reid announced his retirement from the Senate last week. You may think this is a step in the right direction. The problem is that the guy likely to replace him is one of my least favorite Senators: Chuck E. Schumer, one of the biggest nannies this side of Michael Bloomberg:

Here’s a list of quickly ginned-up headlines of what our next illustrious Senate leader has been up to over his time in Washington. Add your own in the comments.

U.S. is urged to investigate cereal prices
Chuck Schumer rips e-cigarette makers
Sen. Schumer calls for ban on ubiquitous yoga mat chemical
Chuck Schumer races to extend ban on “undetectable” 3D-printed guns
Senator Charles Schumer Condemns Delicious-Looking Detergent
Schumer wants to ban high-powered green laser pointers
Sen. Charles Schumer Calls for a Ban on Powdered Alcohol
Schumer calls on FDA to ban powdered caffeine
Schumer Calls for Ban on Alcoholic Energy Drinks
Schumer Pushes to Shut Down Online Drug Marketplace
Senator Schumer Says Bitcoin Is Money Laundering
Charles Schumer wants federal probe into airline fare prices
Chuck Schumer Takes On The FAA Over Drone Rules
High-Frequency Trading Faces Challenge from Schumer
Fast-Food Bread a Concern, Schumer Calls for a Ban
Chuck Schumer: No Four Loko for You, New York
Senator Calls for 25 to Life [Video Game] Ban
Schumer wants to ban home-made bombs
Sen. Schumer wants to ban internationally produced Olympics uniforms
Senators Call For An End To Payday Lending By Banks
Chuck Schumer Engineers USDA Greek Yogurt Subsidy
Sen. Chuck Schumer to introduce bill 10 banning flame retardants from kids’ products
Sen. Schumer: Ban Cadmium in Kids’ Jewelry

All kidding aside, as a country we have a lot to be thankful for, a lot to be proud of, and a lot to be ashamed of.

And we have even more to be embarrassed by. Which brings us back to Chuck Schumer, our next Senate Minority Leader and a demonstrated foe of just about every possible innovation or reality that for whatever furshlugginer reason drives a bug up his ass. Including that time he called a flight attendant “a bitch” because she was enforcing a cell phone ban that I’m sure he’s totally in favor of for everyone else.

If we have become an increasingly trivial country incapable of dealing with serious issues at all, much less in a rational and deliberate way, then we’ve really found our guy.

I would add something else. Chuck Schumer fights for average Americans … unless they happen to be religious nuts. During the Senate hearings on the Waco disaster, his behavior was appalling, constantly saying that the government did nothing wrong and delving into the behavior of the Davidians instead of the disastrous tactics authorized by Janet Reno. If you watch video of him during the hearings and know anything about what happened at Waco, it’s infuriating.

I’ve never liked Harry Reid. But I wouldn’t vote for Chuck Schumer for prom queen.

Crumbling The Filibuster

Well, this happened. The Senate has voted for a partial nuclear option on the filibuster. Legislation and Supreme Court justices will still require 60 votes. But other nominees will only need a majority. Normally, senate rule changes require 67 vote, but Reid used a different procedure to pass the change 52-48. The primary issue here was the filibustering of three judicial nominees to bring the DC Circuit to its usual contingent of 11 judges.

As you can imagine, the Republicans are furious and are threatening future actions, including other rule changes by majority once they have the Senate back. It also being pointed out … quite correctly … that the Democrats are raging hypocrites on this subject, having spent the Bush years yammering on about process and sacred institutions and traditions. It was only when their judicial nominees were stalled that the suddenly discovered majoritarianism. I can almost guarantee that when the Democrats lose the Senate, they will unpass this rule change during the lame duck session than scream bloody murder when the Republicans try to restore it.

As for the rule change itself, my reaction is that I wish the Republicans had done this ten years ago. They sorta did when the Gang of 14 got judicial nominees through without compromising the filibuster itself. But I wish they’d made this kind of rule change to solve the problem long-term.

The filibuster is a critical check on the majority. It has stopped some of Obama’s dumber ideas (like card check) and almost stopped Obamacare. But I draw the line when it’s being used to hold up nominations that the President is obligated to make. There are nearly a hundred vacancies in courts around the country — vacancies that are slowing court cases and hurting businesses that need legal issues resolved. I spent most of the Bush years attacking Democrats for holding up Bush’s nominees (Janice Rogers Brown in particular); I’m disappointed that the Republicans decided to play the same game.

(While I’m on the subject, I do want to take on one talking point that the anti-filibusterites suddenly discovered when it was derailing their agenda. They frequently point out that the filibuster would theoretically allow senators representing 20.5 states and as little as 11% of the population to stop the Senate. But that has nothing to do with the filibuster; that’s the way the Senate is constructed. It is also theoretically possible for senators representing 25 states and 18% of the population to constitution a “majority”. The point of Senate is not to represent the people; it’s to represent the states. I have a long post cooking on the “scrap the Constitution” meme that has recently emerged on the Left.)

I don’t like the way this has been done. The Republicans are right that the Democrats have opened a can of worms here to further rule changes and the Republicans going by the absolute strict letter of Senate procedure to slow business even further. The way this should have been done is with another Gang of 14.

Rand Paul, Cheapskate

In a day when even minor public officials feel like they need full-time bodyguards, private planes and police escorts, this is refreshing:

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul says he will send a $600,000 check to the U.S. Treasury, returning the part of his operating budget as a senator that was not spent.

Paul made the announcement at press conference in Kentucky on Wednesday. According to a press release from Paul’s office, the sum is over 20 percent of the total operating budget.

I have no idea if this is unusual or how unusual it is. I would suspect that most senators max out their spending, but would like to see some hard figures on it.

In any case, while half a million isn’t much by government standards, it’s a nice gesture from the supposed crackpot from Kentucky. I’ve known a few other Senators who eschewed the trappings of office (Orin Hatch, George Allen) and practice what preach on government spending. We need more.

The Court in Recess

Yesterday, the DC Court struck down several of President Obama’s recess appointments:

In a ruling that called into question nearly two centuries of presidential “recess” appointments that bypass the Senate confirmation process, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday that President Obama violated the Constitution when he installed three officials on the National Labor Relations Board a year ago.

The ruling was a blow to the administration and a victory for Mr. Obama’s Republican critics — and a handful of liberal ones — who had accused him of improperly asserting that he could make the appointments under his executive powers. The administration had argued that the president could decide that senators were really on a lengthy recess even though the Senate considered itself to be meeting in “pro forma” sessions.

Recess appointments are intended for when Congress is out of session and there is a dire need. They are not intended to bypass the Congress, even when said Congress are acting like idiots and refusing to do their Constitutional duty. I commented on this a year ago. While chastising the Republicans for refusing to have hearing on necessary appointments, I said:

All that having been said, two wrongs do not make a right. The Democrats pulled this pro forma crap too. Had Bush responded this way, the halls of Congress would have been filled with the sighs of Democrats fainting from such an egregious abuse of the process. Barack Obama, as Senator, was not exactly screaming to end filibusters when he could have done something about it (he was not part of the Gang of 14).

All sides are acting like spoiled little children, playing a game of “he started it.” It’s shit like this that makes me go up to Washington with a 2×4 and start whomping any Senator who gets within range. I don’t give a shit who started it. It needs to stop.

Violating the rules again is not the way to stop it, though. The Republicans got through this when Bush was President by finding Democrats who would let judicial candidates through. Scott Brown, at least, has indicated he would allow votes to proceed and I’m certain other Republicans could be cajoled or shamed into it.

I am nervous about the potential consequences of this decision (actions taken by recess appointees could be ruled invalid, creating complete legal chaos). I also suspect this will go the Supreme Court before it’s decided once and for all (the 11th Circuit previously upheld Bush’s recess appointments). It basically removes the President’s power to make recess appointments since Congress is basically always in at least pro forma session these days. But it seems like the Courts are going to force our legislators and our President to act like adults and actually go through the Constitutional process that is their obligation and duty.

Bluster from the Filibuster Buster

It seems that Senator Harry Reid (D-Mordor) is out to finally change the Senate rules to limit the circumstances under which a filibuster (or threat of one) can be done.

My response? Good.

For too long, the filibuster has been abused by the minority party (both parties at one time or another) to choke the business of the Senate. Worse, Reid has been hiding behind it as an excuse for not allowing anything to get done.

If he wants to change the rules and start taking more accountability for the poor performance of his chamber, fantastic. Yes, it will suck as long as the Democrats are running the Senate, but I wanted this to happen when the GOP ran the show too.

This should happen. Let’s start seeing some voting out of there and quit letting them all take political cover behind arcane, non-Constitutional rules.