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Keep talking, Sessions. It's helping your opponents.
As Joan McCarter wrote yesterday, when Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions declared Jack Lew "must never be secretary of the treasury" it served as a reminder of the urgency of filibuster reform. The issue wasn't simply that Sessions was coming out against Lew, it's that Sessions was making the case that Lew must be blocked at all costs, and under current Senate rules, it would only take 40 Republicans to do exactly that.
Today, in an interview with Slate's Dave Weigel, Oregon Sen. Jeff Markley, who has led the fight to reform the filibuster, used Sessions as exhibit number one to illustrate the urgency of reform:
“It really does highlight how the intentional paralysis of the Senate, through the use of a filibuster as a party tool, has gotten out of hand,” says Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, one of the authors of the reform plan. “Here are qualified people, the president has just won re-election, and [Republicans] are making it as difficult as possible to get them confirmed.”
Republicans don't see it that way, however. Instead, they see Cabinet appointments as merely another opportunity for a hostage crisis:
With an expanded Democratic majority in the Senate, Obama could very well see all of his nominees confirmed. But the GOP will extract a price — Republicans are poised to hold up nominees to make their political points on issues ranging from the debt to EPA regulations to the Second Amendment.
“When the president chooses to pick a fight or to go through a bruising nomination, that’s got a real downside for the president,” Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) warned Tuesday. “What happens is everything backs up, and there’s enough of that problem already today.”
Sorry, Sen. Johanns. You lost the election. As Markos wrote on Wednesday, if you want to pick the Cabinet, you need to win the election first. Yes, the Senate must confirm those selections, but Democrats won the Senate. There's absolutely no reason on earth Republicans should have unfettered veto power over President Obama's cabinet nor the ability to extract concessions for letting him do the job the public hired him to do.
The good news is there's something the Senate can do about that: reform the filibuster. And when they officially convene for business, that's exactly what they should do.