Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Knives Come Out for Senators Cruz and Lee

Republican leaders don’t want them to derail Obama’s amnesty. 

Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee

Last weekend, Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee forced every senator to vote, on the public record, regarding the constitutionality of President Obama’s unilateral decree of effective amnesty for millions of illegal aliens. The resulting Republican establishment hissy fit further confirmed something I’ve been arguing here for some time: Republican leaders in Washington endorse President Obama’s amnesty policy.

Their stated opposition to the imperial manner of the policy’s imposition is poseur stuff. When push comes to shove, when the time comes to do something about presidential lawlessness, what do we get? Childish tantrums over being forced to work on a mid-December weekend — the poor dears having spent a whopping 135 days in session this year . . . and, by last Saturday, facing the crushing burden of another two or three days’ waltzing between the Hill and the nearest studio before their next three-week vacation.

We get party leaders who, despite having decried Obama’s lawlessness during the recent midterm-election campaign, actually whipped against a legislative rebuke of executive lawlessness. We get 20 mindboggling Republican votes in favor of the president’s usurpation of Congress’s legislative authority . . . even as GOP leaders look voters in the eye and promise to persuade the courts that the president has overstepped his constitutional bounds. (I don’t know how many of these guys have ever appeared before a federal judge. “Your Honor, I rise today to urge that this court condemn the president of the United States for taking actions I have voted to endorse and pay for with public funds.” Good luck with that.)

As long as we’re talking about epic insults to our intelligence, special recognition should go to the GOP establishment claim that, by forcing elected legislators to take an accountable vote, Cruz and Lee enabled Democrats to secure confirmation of objectionable Obama nominees.

The story goes like this: By orchestrating a “point of order” vote to question the constitutionality of Obama’s decree, Cruz and Lee broke what Fox News gently called an “informal agreement” that our esteemed senators could take the weekend off. Already you’re getting the picture, right? According to GOP leaders, Congress should not only refrain from taking action on an outrageous abuse of presidential power that drove millions of Americans to support Republicans in the midterm elections, but should do so based on an unenforceable wink-wink deal with that paragon of probity, Harry Reid.

But it gets better: The miffed senators huff that, because Cruz and Lee unexpectedly gave the majority leader weekend time to fill, Reid used it to move forward with a number of controversial Obama nominees to the federal bench and high executive-branch posts — nominees Republicans claim they had shrewdly planned to stall. You’re to believe these nominees got confirmed later in the week because Cruz and Lee, former Supreme Court clerks and highly accomplished lawyers, got outfoxed on parliamentary procedures.

First, a little history: It is because of senior Republicans that President Obama has had so many judicial slots to fill. During the Bush administration, when Democrats made unprecedented use of the filibuster to block conservative judicial nominees, there was a move to do away with the tactic. Beltway Republicans, however, saved the day for Democrats with the infamous “Gang of 14” deal. It not only decisively undermined the nominations of several worthy Bush nominees; ultimately, Democrats were also able to keep some key slots open until they were back in control of the Senate and the White House. Naturally, Reid then did exactly what these GOP leaders had stopped Republicans from doing: He ended the filibuster so that Democrats could slam Obama’s controversial nominees through with a bare 51-vote majority.

And that’s not all. In 2011, Republican leadership also joined with Democrats to eliminate the confirmation process entirely for some 400 high-level agency positions. That is, Republicans gave Obama carte blanche to fill fully one-third of the federal bureaucracy’s top tier without any vetting at all by the Senate.

So now the same guys who have spent the last decade giving away the confirmation store — the same guys who, in recent weeks, have blithely allowed Obama nominees complicit in the Benghazi debacle to sail to confirmation by voice vote — want you to believe they suddenly had a strategy, this week, to run out the clock and thus stop Obama from installing more progressive ideologues. You know, because after going to the trouble of eliminating the filibuster precisely so he could get Obama nominees confirmed, of course Senator Reid was going to stand idly by while Republicans stalled nominees during his few remaining days in control.

You don’t have to rely on common sense to know Republican leaders are snowing you. Reid’s office made the obvious explicit: He always intended to confirm a slew of Obama nominees before allowing the Senate to adjourn.

On December 1, long before last weekend’s immigration debate, The Hill reported Reid’s admonition that he might keep the Senate in session through the week of December 15 in order to, among other things, get Obama nominees confirmed. Moreover, Reid’s communications director Adam Jentleson repeatedly tweeted that Reid had every intention of moving ahead with the nominations before the Senate adjourned. For example, there were these two tweets before last weekend’s amnesty tumult (here and here):

Sen. McConnell just generously offered to adjourn Senate for the year without processing any more nominees. Sen. Reid of course objected.

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