Ten years ago, then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) held together a Democratic filibuster of President Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Tom Curry of NBCNews.com notes that Republicans tried to end debate and proceed to an up-or-down vote seven times before eventually giving up. Frustrated with Daschle's obstructionism, President Bush called for filibuster reform, which Daschle dismissed out of hand, insisting,"The Senate is always going to be the Senate."
Fast forward to February 19, 2013. Appearing on MSNBC's The Cycle in part to promote his new book about the U.S. Senate, co-host Krystal Ball dutifully read back to Daschle a line from his new tome about the filibuster being abused. At no point, however, did Ball or anyone else on the panel, including token conservative S.E. Cupp, point out the Center for American Progress fellow’s hypocrisy.
"So, what's the solution here, is it time for a more progressive, more aggressive filibuster reform?" Ball pondered.
"Unfortunately, I've come to that conclusion," Daschle lamented. "The filibuster has worked in the past, but it was used very, very rarely," the South Dakota Democrat offered, grousing that “to filibuster for a year, and in some cases even two years, is just unacceptable today.”
You know, like when Democrats, led by Daschle, burned through several cloture votes to prevent a Hispanic conservative nominee from getting an up-or-down vote for an appellate court seat. Before Democrats blockaded a final vote on Estrada, the only other federal judicial nominee to be successfully filibustered was Supreme Court Associate Justice Abe Fortas in 1968. Even there, however, Fortas was already sitting on the Supreme Court as an associate justice. President Lyndon B. Johnson wanted to name Fortas chief justice to replace the outgoing Earl Warren, but a bipartisan coalition of senators had significant ethical concerns with Fortas – including questions about his political independence given his close political ties to Johnson -- and tied up his nomination.
By contrast, the filibuster of Estrada was entirely partisan, with only Democrats comprising the filibuster, even as four Democrats peeled off to support ending debate. What’s more, as Majority Leader from June 2001 to January 2003, Daschle simply refused to schedule a floor vote on Estrada, who was originally placed in nomination by President Bush in May 2001. Frustrated with being in limbo for more than two years, Estrada withdrew himself from consideration in September 2003.
It’s beyond ridiculous that MSNBC could give Daschle a platform to lament hyper-partisanship and abuse of the filibuster when he was the poster boy for the same in the first George W. Bush term.
# # #