I noted earlier today that many politicians, pundits and newspapers have been hypocrites on the filibuster, favoring it when their party is in the minority and opposing it when their party controls the Senate. But of all the hypocrites, the most shameless must be the editorial board of the New York Times. Have they forgotten that Google exists? Are they unaware that anyone can search their web site and see what they wrote about an issue when the shoe was on the other foot? Or are they so resigned to being known as partisan hacks that they just don’t care?
Patterico did a little digging, and the results are hilarious. Is the NY Times editorial board for the filibuster, or against it? They are for it, vociferously and unequivocally. They were, anyway, in 2005, when we had a Republican president and Senate:
Of all the hollow arguments Senate Republicans have made in their attempt to scrap the opposition’s right to have a say on President Bush’s judicial nominees, the one that’s most hypocritical insists that history is on their side in demanding a “simple up-or-down vote” on the Senate floor. Republicans and Democrats have used a variety of tactics, from filibuster threats to stealthy committee inaction on individual nominations, in blocking hundreds of presidential appointments across history, including about one in five Supreme Court nominees. This is all part of the Senate’s time-honored deliberative role and of its protection of minority rights, which Republican leaders would now desecrate…
…in overreaching from their majority perch.
. . . .
Democrats have hardly been obstructionists in their constitutional role of giving advice and consent; they have confirmed more than 200 Bush nominees, while balking at a mere seven who should be blocked on the merits, not for partisan reasons. This is a worthy fight, and the filibuster is a necessary weapon, considering that these are lifetime appointments to the powerful appellate judiciary, just below the Supreme Court. In more than two centuries, only 11 federal judges have been impeached for abusive court behavior. Clearly, uninhibited Senate debate in the deliberative stage, with the minority’s voice preserved, is a crucial requirement.
In 2005, the Times was outraged that Republicans would even consider changing the filibuster rule by a simple majority vote:
Senator Frist, with the help of Vice President Dick Cheney, would sidestep a Senate precedent requiring two-thirds’ approval for a rules change and instead have a simple majority strike down the filibuster on judicial nominees. He promises that there would be no effect on other legislation, but the damage would be incalculable. Democrats are already vowing procedural paybacks and gridlock.
A few moderate senators from both parties – realizing that the Senate’s prestige is at stake, as much as its history – are seeking a compromise. We hope President Bush will step in to help find a solution. Otherwise, warns his fellow Republican Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the result will be the harmful crimping of minority rights in a proud deliberative body and “a dark, protracted era of divisive partisanship.”
Got that? Get rid of the filibuster, a “necessary weapon,” and the result will be not just a “desecration” of Senate rules, but a “protracted era of divisive partisanship.”
Well. That was then–2005–and this is now. 2013, when we have a Democratic President and Senate majority. Suddenly, the Times sees the filibuster in a whole new, and now negative, light. The Times editorialized today, in the wake of Harry Reid’s exercise of the nuclear option:
For five years, Senate Republicans have refused to allow confirmation votes on dozens of perfectly qualified candidates nominated by President Obama for government positions. They tried to nullify entire federal agencies by denying them leaders. They abused Senate rules past the point of tolerance or responsibility. And so they were left enraged and threatening revenge on Thursday when a majority did the only logical thing and stripped away their power to block the president’s nominees.
The damage, apparently, is no longer “incalculable.”
In a 52-to-48 vote that substantially altered the balance of power in Washington, the Senate changed its most infuriating rule and effectively ended the filibuster on executive and judicial appointments.
So the filibuster is no longer “part of the Senate’s time-honored deliberative role and of its protection of minority rights,” or a “necessary weapon.” It is instead the Senate’s “most infuriating rule.”
From now on, if any senator tries to filibuster a presidential nominee, that filibuster can be stopped with a simple majority, not the 60-vote requirement of the past. That means a return to the democratic process of giving nominees an up-or-down vote, allowing them to be either confirmed or rejected by a simple majority.
But wait! Where was the “democratic process of giving nominees an up-or-down vote” when the nominee was, for example, Miguel Estrada? In those days–eight years ago, an eternity apparently–the Republicans’ request for a “simple up-or-down vote” was “hypocritical.”
Republicans warned that the rule change could haunt the Democrats if they lose the White House and the Senate. But the Constitution gives presidents the right to nominate top officials in their administration and name judges, and says nothing about the ability of a Senate minority to stop them. (The practice barely existed before the 1970s.)
But it was wildly popular in the Times’s editorial board room in 2005! The Times is not alone in switching sides on the filibuster, but it must be the most shameless of all the filibuster hypocrites. As Patterico says, the paper is “an unserious publication.” Unserious, and evidently immune to ridicule, even as its circulation dwindles.