Nomination Fights To Come

With President Barack Obama seeking to move an ambitious legislative agenda through the molasses-like United States Senate,* it was fairly easy for Mitch McConnell and his colleagues to obstruct a given person’s nomination simply by threatening to drag things out. After all, Harry Reid and the White House had better things to do with their pressure floor time than quibble about district court nominees. But just as losing control of the House of Representatives increases Obama’s leverage over Bibi Netanyahu, with any hope of progressive legislation 100 percent dead in the House it would now make sense to dedicate much more Senate floor time to nominations.

Brian Beutler reports that advocates are making the case:

“Reid should concentrate Floor time on must pass bills, message and other votes that highlight differences and important matters that are or should be non-controversial, including confirming lifetime federal judges,” Glenn Sugameli, an advocate for swift judicial confirmations, tells TPM. “All of Obama’s nominees to circuit and district courts have had the support of their home-state Republican and Democratic senators and the vast majority have been non-controversial nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee without objection and approved unanimously when they finally receive usually long-delayed Floor votes.”

“If one or more Republican senators force cloture votes on consensus nominees, they will accurately be seen as mindlessly obstructionist,” Sugameli says. “If they do not, nominees will be confirmed quickly.”

We’ll see if it happens, but it ought to.

That said, a serious push on nominations could become yet another test of the McConnell Way. My intuition is that blanket obstruction would prompt an initially flurry of high-minded denunciations of the GOP, but that if McConnell holds firm it will turn out that a strategy of deliberately sabotaging the executive branch is highly effective. The worse conditions become in the country, the more the President and his party will suffer politically. The idea that swing voters will be able to accurately identify who’s responsible for bad conditions sounds nice, but flies in the face of all the evidence.