Do You Need A Reason to Vote for Catherine Cortez Masto?

Do you need a reason to get off your couch and head to the polls this fall to cast your vote for Catherine Cortez Masto for U.S. Senate?  Well here’s a good one:

Mitch McConnell told Fox News that he believes the NRA must approve of our next US Supreme Court justice nominee to receive any consideration by a Republican Senate.  The NRA disapproves of Judge Garland’s nomination, therefore, the current Republican majority will not allow his nomination to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote on confirmation.

This utter nonsense has to end.  We need to take the Senate back!  To do that, we need to make sure that Catherine Cortez Masto is elected to replace retiring Senator Harry Reid.  We cannot allow Republican Joe Heck to become Nevada’s next Senator and allow him to rubber stamp replacement of potentially FOUR retiring Supreme Court justices with “Scalia clones.”

WHY the 2014 Election is Extremely Important

If Republicans win control of the Senate this November, and the Tea Party increases its power in Congress, they will do absolutely everything within their power to impeach President Obama.

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart is sounding the alarm — and I agree with him:

“I’ve said this before and I’ll keep repeating it until the message sinks in for Democrats inclined to sit out the midterms: Obama is not on the ballot in November, but Obama is on the ballot in November. Democrats have it in their power to keep the Senate and save the Obama presidency from the all-but-certain asterisk of impeachment.”

If there is even a 10% chance that Jonathan Capehart is right, we have to do everything in our power to stop the possibility that the GOP will impeach the president — a media circus that would have disastrous policy consequences for what would have been the final two years of the Obama Administration.

The Republicans are serious.  In 2013 Senator Ted Cruz was asked why Republicans hadn’t impeached the president. His answer was that they did not yet control the Senate. Senator Tom Coburn has said he is “watching whether the president was committing impeachable offenses,” and Senator Lindsay Graham said impeachment was a possibility over the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Really? Over the return of a US Soldier who was a prisoner of war? Now half-term Sarah Palin is calling for the president to be impeached over the humanitarian crisis at the border, arguing that “the many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored. If after all this he’s not impeachable, then no one is.”

So, how would that 2-step procedure for Impeachment work? First, the House of Representatives would need to pass, by a simple majority of those present and voting, articles of impeachment, which constitute the formal allegation or allegations. Upon passage, the defendant would be considered “impeached,” but NOT out of office. Second, the Senate would then need to “try” the accused. In the case of the impeachment of a president, the Chief Justice of the United States presides over the proceedings (that would be Chief Partisan Roberts). To convict the accused, a two-thirds majority of the senators present is required. Conviction removes the defendant from office. The Senate could also vote to further punish the individual by barring him from holding future federal office, elected or appointed and to disqualify him from receiving certain emoluments of his prior office (such as a pension or secret service protection).  If there is no charge for which a two-thirds majority of the senators present vote “guilty”, the defendant is acquitted and no punishment is imposed.

If the Republicans win control of the Senate in November, even if they do NOT have a solid super-majority, and if Republican membership within the House remains in control of the Republicans, they will proceed with at attempt to impeach not just President Obama, but most likely Vice President Biden as well.  Their logic will be that he aided and abetted the President in whatever ridiculous “high crimes or misdemeanors” they manage to dream up.

Can you imagine President John Boehner and Vice President Mitch McConnell as the leaders of   our nation?  It would be the end of our nation and everything we’ve worked for throughout our lives.  Sitting this election out is the equivalent of voting for every Republican on the ballot.  We just CANNOT do that.   Not only can we NOT sit this one out, we need to engage others to vote for Democrats up and down the ticket.  We cannot afford to provide Republican candidates with seats of power through which they can achieve name recognition which can be used to fool uneducated members of the electorate into voting for them just because their name is better known (even though their deeds aren’t).

Kristen Spees
Kristen Spees

In Nevada, we can’t do anything about Republican membership in the Senate, be we can improve Democratic membership in the House.  Kristen Spees is running against Republican incumbent Mark Amodei.  We need to engage in every way possible to help Kristen win the race in CD2.  It’s up to us to help our friends and neighbors understand how Mr. Amodei’s attrocious voting record impacts them and how that record predicts how his votes could personally harm them should Republicans take control of both the House and the Senate — and then engineer an impeachment coup to usurp the Presidency and Vice Presidency.  Gone will be many of the programs millions of Americans dependent upon.  Gone will be our national parks and heritage, sold off to the Corporations and Billionaires to pillage.  Gone will be any environmental safeguards to ensure safe drinking water, clean air and the like.

Erin Bilbray
Erin Bilbray

Similarly, Erin Bilbray (Open Secrets) is running against Joe Heck in CD3 which encompasses the southern outreaches of Clark County.  Rural and Urban Democrats throughout CD3 need to engage with both Democrats and independent voters across the district, get folks registered and energize  them to make it to the polls this November to vote for Erin.  Just as those of us in CD2 need to unseat Mark Amodei, those in CD3 need to unseat Joe Heck.  CD3 is a competitive district for Democrats.  We just need to get folks off their couches and out to the polls to vote for our candidate. Make your commitment now, to do just that.

Engage and pay attention.  This could be the election that ends what was our great nation.

Everything You Need To Know About The ‘Nuclear Option’ And Harry Reid’s Plan To Fix The Senate

— by Ian Millhiser

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took the first step to invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” a Senate procedure that will allow a majority of the Senate to effectively change its rules to limit widespread obstructionism by the minority. As the trigger for this reform involves seven executive branch nominees being held up by Senate Republican filibusters, the likely consequence of this round of rules reform will be to eliminate the minority’s ability to filibuster nominees to non-judicial jobs. Here’s what you need to know about the showdown in the Senate that will occur next week:

What Is The “Nuclear Option?”

Although the term “nuclear opinion” was embraced by its opponents in an effort to cast aspersions it — its supporters have at times preferred to call it the “constitutional option” or the “Byrd option” — this maneuver is deeply rooted in the Senate’s history. As an article published by the conservative Federalist Society explained in 2004, the basic mechanism was devised by Republicans in 1890 to defeat a Democratic filibuster of a bill permitting military intervention in southern states that prevented African-Americans from voting.

Under this 1890 plan, Sen. Nelson Aldrich (R-RI) proposed introducing a motion asserting that “[w]hen any bill, resolution, or other question shall have been under consideration for a considerable time, it shall be in order for any Senator to demand that debate thereon be closed.” Aldrich then envisioned a series of steps where the presiding officer of the Senate would reject the process proposed by his motion, and a simple majority of the Senate would reverse the presiding officer’s decision. Aldrich, however, never executed this plan because Democrats eventually caved and allowed a vote on the bill out of concerns that Aldrich would succeed.

More recently, in 1977, Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-WV) successfully used a similar process to prevent senators from forcing debate on amendments introduced purely for the purpose of delay. Under this maneuver, Byrd asked Vice President Walter Mondale, who was then presiding over the Senate, to rule that he was required to “take the initiative” to rule such dilatory amendments out of order. When Mondale sustained Byrd’s request, supporters of more delay appealed that decision, and Byrd led the Senate to table this appeal by a majority vote. Thus, Byrd effectively eliminated a mechanism allowing a minority of senators to prevent a vote on a matter the majority supports, just as Reid seeks to do now.

Indeed, in a memo provided to ThinkProgress, Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) office identifies 17 additional times since Byrd originally executed this maneuver in 1977 when the Senate has changed its procedures by a majority vote. The most recent example occurred on October 6, 2011, when the Senate voted 51-48 that senators could not use “motions to suspend the rules in order to consider non-germane amendments post cloture” in order to delay a vote.

Wasn’t There A Big Fight Over This During The Bush Administration?

Yes. President George W. Bush nominated a number of unusually ideological judges to the federal appellate bench. As a Texas Supreme Court justice, for example, Judge Priscilla Owen took thousands of dollars worth of campaign donations from Enron, and then wrote an opinion reducing Enron’s taxes by $15 million. As Alabama’s Attorney General, Judge William Pryor defended handcuffing prisoners to a hitching post in the hot sun, and then making them remain there for up to seven hours with barely any water and no bathroom breaks. Judge Janice Rogers Brown compared liberalism to “slavery” and court decisions upholding the New Deal to a “socialist revolution.” Since joining the federal bench, she wrote an opinion suggesting that all labor, business or Wall Street regulation is constitutionally suspect. Democrats filibustered these nominees, and a handful of others.

Many Republicans who are now playing a key role in defending the filibuster labeled Democratic filibusters unconstitutional in 2005. Future Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused Democrats of wanting “to reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for confirmation.” Future Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) labeled Democrats’ actions an “unconstitutional use of the filibuster.” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who has since voted to filibuster several Obama nominees, declared that “I would never filibuster any President’s judicial nominee, period.”

The Democrats’ filibusters did not last very long, however, in the so-called Gang of 14 agreement, seven Democrats agreed to a near total surrender to Republican demands — agreeing to permit Owen, Pryor and Brown to be confirmed to federal appeals courts. As an added bonus for Republicans, this agreement left the filibuster intact, thus allowing them to turn it against President Obama.

But Wait, Didn’t Democrats Oppose The Nuclear Option In 2005?

They did, but circumstances have changed quite a bit since then. Democrats filibustered nominees like Owen, Pryor and Brown because they viewed them as uniquely offensive nominees justifying the use of unusual tactics. Republicans under Obama, by contrast, say that there are some jobs that they will confirm no one to, no matter who President Obama nominates. Many Democrats who still believe that the filibuster can exist if it is only used, in the words of the Gang of 14 agreement, in “extraordinary circumstances,” now see that filibusters are being used in extraordinarily ordinary circumstances. They believe this is a bridge too far.

If Republicans succeed in maintaining the filibuster, moreover, it will cripple much of the government’s ability to function and lead to severe consequences for many American workers and consumers. By refusing to confirm anyone to the National Labor Relations Board, Republicans will likely shut down nearly all of federal labor law. Without the NLRB,

there will be no one to enforce workers’ rights to join a union without intimidation from their employer. No one to enforce workers’ rights to join together to oppose abusive work conditions. And no one to make an employer actually bargain with a union. Without an NLRB to enforce the law, it may be possible for an employer to round up all of their pro-union workers, fire them, and then replace them with anti-union scabs who will immediately call a vote to decertify the union.

Similarly, a Republican filibuster of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordary will likely shut down that agency’s new authority to regulate Wall Street. Anticipated filibusters of three nominees to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will enable Republicans to strike numerous rules promulgated by the Obama Administration to protect workers, consumers and the environment. The filibuster is no longer being used to block unusually offensive nominees, it’s being used to hobble America’s ability to govern itself.

Beyond these specific examples, there can be no doubt that filibusters spiked significantly since McConnell took over at the Senate’s Republican leader. A common mechanism used to measure the frequency of filibusters is to count the number of “cloture motions” filed in a particular Congress — cloture motions are the mechanism used to attempt to break a filibuster. The number of such motions spiked massively the minute McConnell became Minority Leader:

Indeed, nearly 3 in 10 of all cloture motions filed in the history of the Senate were filed during McConnell’s reign as Minority Leader.

With respect to filibusters of executive branch nominees, the issue likely to be addressed next week, the data shows a similar spike in McConnell-led filibusters once President Obama took office:

Why Is This Happening Now?

In the past three years, Democrats twice agreed to minor rules changes that did little to quell McConnell’s tactics. This time, however, they appear likely to pursue meaningful reform. This shift is likely due to a pair of court decisions by Republican judges that created a looming crisis Senate Democrats can no longer ignore.

The reason why the NLRB is in danger of going dark, stripping away much of American labor law in the process, are two decisions joined by five Republican judges that effectively strip away President Obama’s power to fill these seats via a recess appointment. And, while there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will uphold these decisions, the fact remains that there are five Republicans on the Supreme Court and only four Democrats.

If the NLRB goes dark, unscrupulous employers could do significant and irreversible damage to workers and the unions they rely upon to protect their livelihoods. Even if the Senate were eventually able to fill the open seats on the NLRB, the labor movement may never recover from the blow such employers could deal in the absence of an NLRB capable of enforcing federal law. Thus, the irony of the five Republican judges’ decisions stripping away much of the government’s ability to function is that it could ultimately have the opposite effect. Because Democrats no longer have the option to delay filibuster reform without risking permanent harms, robust reform is more likely today than it has ever been. And that will lead to a far more functional government than the one we have under Mitch McConnell’s preferred regime.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Looks Like Harry’s Working Up Some Intestinal Fortitude for a Fight

We all hoped beyond hope that Senator Reid would fix the filibuster problem that has ground Washington to a halt.  Instead, he put his trust in yet one more handshake deal with a charlatan named Mitch McConnell who broke that deal shortly after making it.  As result, nominations have been held, filibustered and ground to a standstill.  Unable to be confirmed, nominee after nominee has withdrawn forcing the administration to have to start over from scratch.  Instead of confirming the best and brightest, rule-by-the-minority is forcing confirmation of the weakest possible progressive candidates possible.

But, good news may, and I say MAY, be on the horizon.  Harry seems to be getting a bit agitated and we finally might see him go for his “nuclear” option some time in July:

“Today, Senator McConnell defended the status quo of gridlock and obstruction in Washington, saying ‘there is no real problem here.’ I could not disagree more. Senator McConnell may choose to ignore it, but the problem of gridlock in Washington is real and it needs to be fixed.

Presidents — be they Republican or Democratic — deserve to have the people working for them that they choose. The Senate’s role is to advise and consent. But Republicans have corrupted the Founders’ intent, creating an unreasonable and unworkable standard whereby the weakest of rationales is often cited as sufficient basis for blocking major nominees. Due to Republican obstruction, the de facto threshold for too many nominees to be confirmed has risen from a simple majority to a super-majority of 60 votes. On judicial nominees, Republicans’ obstruction is equally unprecedented…There is no reason to delay qualified nominees for so long except delay itself, and it is little wonder we have a judicial vacancy crisis in this country.

Despite the agreement we reached in January, Republican obstruction on nominees continues unabated. I want to make the Senate work again – that is my commitment.”

Withdrawal of Halligan Nomination Shines Spotlight on GOP Obstruction

— by Layne Amerikaner & Miranda Blue, PFAW, media@pfaw.org, (202) 467-4999

In response to the reported withdrawal of DC Circuit Court of Appeals Nominee Caitlin Halligan, People For the American Way issued the following statement.

“Caitlin Halligan’s decision to withdraw her nomination is an indictment of the continued intransigence of Senate Republicans,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “There’s no question that Halligan was totally qualified for the position. Anyone who wants to understand how Washington is broken can look at the filibuster led by Senators Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell. Not a single Senator raised concerns about Halligan’s qualifications or her character, yet Republicans wouldn’t even allow her an up-or-down vote. This is partisanship run amok.”

Halligan, who was first nominated to the DC Circuit in May of 2010, was repeatedly blocked by Republicans—including Senators Collins, McCain and Graham, members of the so-called Gang of 14 who previously spoke out against filibustering in anything but “extraordinary circumstances.”

“There’s an obvious reason why Republicans have been so committed to blocking President Obama’s nominees to this court,” said Baker. “Republican Presidents have been hugely successful in packing the DC Circuit with extraordinarily conservative judges, and they don’t want any more jurists on the bench to dilute that ideological power. The DC Circuit has dealt significant blows to working people, environmentalists, public health activists and ordinary investors. Republicans pushing a reactionary ideology are working overtime to protect the power of the DC circuit to advance their political agenda. Senators should put the best interests of the country above partisanship and bring this obstruction to a halt.”

People For the American Way recently released a report, America’s Progress At Risk: Restoring the Balance to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, laying out the impact of the right-wing majority on the nation’s second highest court.