Harry Reid and Senate Democrats struck a blow against the tyranny of the minority today by exercising the nuclear option. Republican influence in the Senate is out of proportion to the number of people they actually represent due to the small Republican states having the same number of Senators as much larger states, which generally are Democratic. The Republicans have further extended this advantage by abusing the filibuster, often blocking appointments and legislation with a minority vote. In the entire history of the United States, 168 presidential appointments have been blocked. Eighty-two were under Obama and eighty-six were under all other presidents. While in the past the filibuster was more likely to be reserved for cases where the minority party had a real objection, Republicans are often using the filibuster to block qualified appointees just because they were appointed by Barack Obama. Republicans still do not accept Obama’s election and subsequent reelection
The impact of this is somewhat limited as it applies to executive branch appointments and most judges but does not apply to Supreme Court nominees or legislation. Republicans, who are outraged by this extension of majority rule, threaten to extend this should they take back control of the Senate so they can appoint more Scalias and Clarence Thomases to the Supreme Court. (Why do Republicans hate America so much?) Rand Paul even called Reid a big bully.
In order for the Republicans to take advantage of this and carry out their threats, they will need a Republican president as well as control of the Senate. At least in the short run, this doesn’t look likely. Demographic changes have made it difficult for Republicans to take the White House unless the party changed dramatically. The Republicans might manage to take control of the Senate in 2014 if all the close races go their way. In 2016, a presidential election year which already is more favorable to Democrats than an off-year election, the Democrats have to defend ten seats while the Republicans will have to defend twenty-four. While red state Democratic Senators are among those running in 2014, several blue state Republicans will be on the ballot in 2016. I’m sure Harry Reid considered the likelihood of continued Democratic control of the Senate when deciding to go ahead with the nuclear option.