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Parliamentary games

To finish with Berwick-blogging and start in on meta-Berwick blogging, today's recess appointment shows yet again that the rampant use of the filibuster doesn't lead to gridlock so much as government-by-loophole (Keith Hennessey seems to think that the filibuster wasn't the issue here, as Republicans hadn't filibustered yet and were clearly just preparing to filibuster instead, but that's not my understanding).

Recess appointments bypass Senate hearings and they expire at the end of the next congressional term -- in this case, through 2011 -- if they're not ratified by the Senate. Which is all to say that like the reconciliation process, and devolving tough problems to outside committees, and letting the executive branch handle more issues autonomously, recess appointments have a lot of drawbacks, but they're not subject to the predictable and endless filibusters that now characterize modern legislative life. As I've said before, it would make a lot more sense for us to either decide that everything requires 60 votes and there are no options for evasion, or that everything requires 51 votes and there are few options for obstruction. But the current scenario of parliamentary one-upmanship is a nutty way to run a country.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 7, 2010; 3:34 PM ET
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Presumably if the Republicans take control of the Senate in the November elections they will resort to the same tactic that the Democrats used in 2006 and simply keep the Senate in pro forma session for the next two years to prevent this.

I'd still be interested in an explanation as to whether or not the Republicans were blocking the confirmation hearing or just threatening to filibuster afterwards. This would be a lot more legitimate if the Democrats had actually held the hearing first. Given how fast they got the Kagan and Petraeus hearings done, you think they could have scheduled the hearing for a nomination from April.

More politics as usual instead of change we can believe in.

Posted by: jnc4p | July 7, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Maybe not so nutty.....since we have a nut tryng to run this country! It seems that whatever the majority of America wants, Obama is against! Just a couple: Healthcare takeover, Israel, Illegal Immigration.........The MSNBC poll shows that 95% favor the AZ bill! This guy is bad news.


Posted by: my4653 | July 7, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Could someone please explain how this recess appointment can be blamed on Republicans? The Democrats did not yet schedule any hearings for Mr. Berwick, and even Senator Baucus has criticized the President for this. Why, other than being a flaming liberal shrill for the Obama administration, is Ezra blaming Republicans? Because they threatened to ask tough questions?

Posted by: cummije5 | July 7, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

it is odd that the U.S. Senate can run by internal rules that go against the constitutional intent.

Where is the check in our system for that?

Posted by: VMzJxah | July 7, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

In this case Republicans were willing to act according to traditional parliamentary procedure, and expressly desired a confirmation hearing, as Jake Tapper reports:

Posted by: jakegs | July 7, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

whether or not the Republicans were blocking the confirmation hearing or just threatening to filibuster afterwards.

Does it really make a difference? Why hold hearings if there won't be a vote to bring the nomination to the floor.

"Could someone please explain how this recess appointment can be blamed on Republicans?"

"At this point in his presidency, President Bush had made 15 recess appointments. Obama's actions Wednesday will bring his total to 18. White House officials argued that Obama has a total of 189 nominees pending before the Senate, with almost half of them pending for more than three months.

President Bush, a White House official said, "was not facing the same level of obstruction. Twenty-eight of President Obama’s nominees have been held on the Senate floor for more than three months. At this point in the Bush administration, only six of his nominees had been waiting that long.""--ABC news

nuff said.

Why hold hearings when the nominations can't get to the floor for a vote. When the republicans allow the backlog of appointees to receive a vote, then we can argue if this recess appt was necessary. I can understand why Obama doesn't want Berwick to be a giant punching bag for the republicans to bash for months while they filibuster bringing his nomination to the floor. Its the Dawn Johnson treatment and no one should have to go though that.

Posted by: srw3 | July 7, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

For god's sake, if we're going to have a filibuster, then let's do it right! It's so simple. Make the republicans stand up in congress and read for days from the Manhattan telephone directory. That'll catch the citizenry's attention! At the same time it will make it clear to tea sippers like those who have lost their homes or jobs which party is responsible for blocking benefits and remedies.
Republicans need only mutter the word filibuster and democrats tuck their tails between their legs. It really is so simple. Make the filibuster real! Show the American people who the obstructionists are and what they're obstructing. Call the republicans' bluff...

Posted by: g16180332 | July 8, 2010 4:00 AM | Report abuse

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