end the filibuster

Republicans Go Nuclear So They Can Push Through Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee
After Senate Democrats successfully filibustered Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination, Republicans changed the rules on Thursday, making Gorsuch’s confirmation all but certain.
By Emma Loop, Zoe Tillman

Senate Republicans on Thursday ended the Democratic filibuster of US Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch by changing the Senate’s rules for voting on those nominees.

The move — known as the “nuclear option” — makes it all but certain that President Donald Trump’s first high court nominee will be confirmed by the weekend.

Gorsuch’s nomination will now proceed to a final vote by the Senate on Friday, where the Republican majority is expected to confirm him — a significant win for the Trump administration that will resonate for decades not only on the Supreme Court, but in the Senate as well.

Democrats filibustered the nomination on Thursday morning, defeating a motion to end debate, known as cloture. After the failed cloture vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initiated a series of procedural moves to change the interpretation of Senate rules about the number of votes needed to invoke cloture on Supreme Court nominations — from three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 votes, down to a simple majority.

Republicans voted 52-48 in favor of making the change, known as the “nuclear option” because it blows up long-standing Senate process.

BREAKING: Senate Democrats Will Try To Filibuster Trump's Supreme Court Nominee
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Thursday that he will force Republicans to find 60 votes to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. If they can’t, it will set up a showdown over whether Republicans will move to get rid of the filibuster for high court nominees.
By Zoe Tillman

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Thursday that Democrats will try to mount a filibuster against President Trump’s nominee for the US Supreme Court.

The move will force Republicans to find a supermajority of 60 votes to advance Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to a confirmation vote. If they can’t, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans will have to decide whether to take the dramatic step of changing the vote threshold and essentially eliminating the filibuster.

The news came in the midst of the confirmation hearing for Gorsuch before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Schumer made his announcement from the Senate floor as members of the judiciary committee heard from witnesses for and against Gorsuch’s nomination. (Gorsuch finished his testimony on Wednesday evening and wasn’t at the hearing on Thursday.)

It takes a 60-vote supermajority to end a filibuster over a Supreme Court nominee, if mounted, and move to a confirmation vote. This cloture vote would end debate on the nomination. If Republicans don’t have the votes, though, they could attempt to change the rules — the so-called “nuclear option.” If that rule change is made, going forward it would only take a simple majority to advance a high court nominee.

Senate Democrats invoked the nuclear option in November 2013 to change the supermajority rule for lower court nominees, in order to push through President Obama’s nominees to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The effort was successful in getting Obama’s nominees confirmed, but it also means that it is now harder for Democrats to block Trump’s nominees to the lower federal courts.

Schumer announced the move by highlighting that recent past Supreme Court nominees reached a 60-vote threshold.

“To my Republican friends who think that if Judge Gorsuch fails to reach 60 votes we ought to change the rules I say: if this nominee cannot earn 60 votes, a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees, and President Bush’s last two nominees, the answer isn’t to change the rules – it’s to change the nominee,” Schumer said in his prepared remarks on Thursday.

Noting that Schumer had announced he would attempt to block any nominee before Gorsuch was even nominated, a McConnell spokesperson pushed back.

“After spending much of last year lamenting the consequences of a vacancy on the Supreme Court, he’s now arguing to keep the seat vacant for the next four or eight years. Try to figure that one out,” Don Stewart told BuzzFeed News via email. “I guess #WeNeedNine only applies when there’s a Democrat president.”

Stewart also pushed back against Schumer’s claim of the 60-vote “bar,” noting that the norm is not requiring a cloture vote on Supreme Court nominations.

“Historically, there are just simple up-or-down votes [on Supreme Court nominees]. Yes, Dems took the unprecedented step of attempting a partisan filibuster of Justice Alito. But that was the anomaly,” he said, highlighting that Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed with 52 votes — and no cloture vote.

Nonetheless, several Democrats on Thursday announced plans to oppose Gorsuch and to vote “no” on cloture, including Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. At least one Democrat, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, has said he will not support a filibuster, according to Yahoo News.

Asked about Schumer’s plans at Thursday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer deferred to the Senate leader.

“I am not going to start to tell Sen. McConnell what to do from here,” Spicer said.

Trump: I pass a lot of bills. Also, the Democrats won’t let me pass bills.
See if you can spot the contradiction in these two tweets President Trump posted Friday morning.
By https://www.facebook.com/philip.bump

Eight Democrats control the Senate, he warns, meaning that the Republican majority must end the filibuster to pass legislation.

Eleven minutes later, a different story: In seven months, Trump’s seen unprecedented success, including … passing a lot of legislation.

This is not the first time Trump’s tried to have it both ways on legislation.

On July 11, this tweet:

And on July 17: “We’ve signed more bills — and I’m talking about through the legislature — than any president, ever,” he said.

Read More


August 29th 1957: Thurmond filibuster ends

On this day in 1957, the Democratic Senator from South Carolina, Strom Thurmond, ended the longest filibuster in history. Thurmond was strongly opposed to the proposed 1957 Civil Rights Act, which aimed to protect African-American voting rights. An ardent segregationist, his desire to stop passage of the act led to him conducting a 24 hour, 18 minute long speech during which he read out state election laws, the Declaration of Independence, and even a recipe book. He did not sit down for the whole filibuster, and cots were brought into the Senate chamber for his fellow Senators to sleep. Thurmond began speaking at 8:54 pm on August 28th and continued until 9:12 pm the following evening. Despite his efforts, the bill was passed over his filibuster, marking the first time since the Reconstruction period following the Civil War that Congress passed a piece of civil rights legislation. However, the act was ultimately ineffective in protecting African-American voting rights, and widespread disenfranchisement continued throughout the country. Thurmond continued to oppose the Civil Rights Movement as it gained traction, eventually defecting from the Democratic Party after the party pushed through the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Strom Thurmond left office in 2003 aged 100, making him the oldest-serving and one of the longest-serving members of Congress.

11 Awesome Things That Happened Because You Stood With Texas Women

By guest author: Planned Parenthood Votes President Cecile Richards

24 years ago, my mom, Ann Richards, ran for governor because she wanted to open up the doors of government and let the people in. Last summer, thousands of Texans took her up on that offer.

1. Wendy Davis gave a voice to folks who have been shut out of the political process for too long.

2. Leticia Van de Putte raised the point of order heard ‘round the world.

3. They tried to end the filibuster and force a vote — but the voices of hundreds of people standing shoulder to shoulder in the rotunda shook the Capitol to its foundation and stopped the bill in the “people’s filibuster.”

4. They tried to cheat in plain sight—changing the official record to say that the bill had passed just in time—to try to ignore our voices…

5. …instead, they got fact-checked by thousands of people watching and tweeting online.

6. Orange really was the new black.

7. And meanwhile, in the rest of the country, thousands more folks rose up in places like North Carolina and Missouri to make their voices heard by their legislators.

8. Every day since, folks in Texas have shown what it means to be “in for the long run.”

9. We met a new generation of activists – including plenty of folks who weren’t even old enough to vote yet, like then-9-year-old Beau Guidry who not only watched every minute of the filibuster, he live-tweeted it.

But the best part: He was so inspired by what he saw in the Capitol that last fall, he ran for school president – and won!

10. Today Texans are still standing, organizing, and fighting for women’s health — and we’re stronger than ever!

11. And the best thing to come out of the filibuster hasn’t happened yet – it’s when we make Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte the next governor and lieutenant governor of Texas!

The Forgotten Story of the Freedom Schools

Young people named it the Freedom Summer Project. It was the largest campaign to register voters—in 1964, an election year—and it was the most significant demonstration of African Americans’ political strength in the Civil Rights Movement. Congressman John Lewis, then chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), wrote that the objective of Freedom Summer was to “force a showdown between the local and federal government.” One significant yet overlooked part of this history is the way activists moved beyond the ballot box to politicize the right to an education.

A segment of the Freedom Riders, activists who painstakingly sat in at segregated bus terminals in 1961, organized the project. When they moved to Mississippi to register voters, young people called them “Freedom Fighters.” Their presence inspired a level of terrorism that had not been seen in the South since Reconstruction. From June to August 1964 alone, police arrested more than 1,000 protesters and local segregationists murdered three freedom workers, assaulted over 80 activists, opened fire on demonstrators over 35 times, and set fire to 35 churches. Activists remained undeterred. During the course of the summer they successfully pressured Congress to end a seven-week filibuster and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Fifty years later, it is clear that this struggle for a quality education was just as important as the right to vote. In the midst of the violence that summer, young people still in middle and high school joined the frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement. They participated in marches and demonstrations. They served time in jail. But the story of the Freedom Schools and the struggle for educational quality was relegated to the back pages of the New York Times.

If the civil rights revolution was to succeed, organizers reasoned, African Americans still in their teens had to be properly educated. As more than 2,000 college students from across the country volunteered to register voters, a select minority opted to teach in 41 “Freedom Schools”—alternative middle and high schools that taught the art of resistance and the strategies of protest. The United Federation of Teachers in New York sent the largest contingent of teachers, and over 2,500 students were ready to greet them.

The Freedom Schools raised questions about the very nature of American democracy—in particular, how to provide a quality education to all citizens, a still-unrealized promise that had been embedded in the monumental Brown v. Board of Education decision (1954). In 1964, a small yet vocal number of African American students opted to boycott the public schools altogether. They questioned the logic of entering white classrooms that had reacted violently to desegregation orders. For students who boycotted their public schools, Freedom Schools served as a replacement for conventional classrooms.

Other Freedom School students remained in their segregated schools once the summer was over but demanded improvements. They insisted that white educators include African American history and literature in the curriculum. They pushed back against the goals of vocational education that typically defined black education and made it clear that they wanted preparation for college. Through it all, political consciousness remained paramount. When Freedom School students were suspended for wearing “One Man, One Vote” buttons in the Delta, students walked out and shut down the school. The court case that followed was used as precedent inTinker v. Des Moines (1969), which protected students’ right to free speech.

After epic 39-hour filibuster, Missouri Senate passes bill criticized as anti-gay
The bill is aimed at protecting faith-based groups from having to condone same-sex marriage.
By https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sandhya-Somashekhar/424900341023463

For 39 hours, seven Democrats in the Missouri Senate kept up a filibuster aimed at drawing attention to, and ultimately killing, a religious freedom bill that critics called anti-gay.

On Wednesday morning, they were finally cut short. The chamber’s Republican majority voted to end the filibuster and voted in favor of the bill, which if enacted would permit religious organizations and certain others to refrain from activities viewed as condoning or participating in same-sex marriage.

It is the latest and perhaps most dramatic example of the extraordinary opposition being stoked by religious liberties bills, which have proliferated in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year legalizing same-sex marriage nationally. Social conservatives say the bills are necessary to protect faith-based organizations and faith-driven businesses from being forced to condone a practice that clashes with their religion.

But such measures have been met with fierce opposition by gay rights supporters and others, including prominent businesses that warn it could harm commerce by painting the state as bigoted. They point to the example of Indiana, which took a hit to its reputation last year after the legislature passed its own religious protection law.

anonymous asked:

What is the process for nominating judges to the supreme court?

In the wake of Justice Scalia’s death, a few tons of ink have been spilled over the Supreme Court nomination process - whether President will appoint a nominee, whether the Senate will confirm a nominee, filibusters and supermajorities, Judiciary Committee hearings, and so on. For a process which, in the Constitution, merits all of two lines, the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court justices has become extremely complicated, and incredibly political. This is completely unsurprising - Supreme Court Justices wield a lot of power, and they’re appointed for life.

As we discussed last week, the power to nominate Supreme Court Justices lies with the President. In fact, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, every President who has completed at least one full term in office has nominated at least one. Even President Kennedy, who did not serve a full term in office, appointed two! As there are currently 9 judges on the bench, the death or retirement of a judge is not actually terribly uncommon.

The Constitution also stipulates that nominations have to happen with “the Advice and Consent of the Senate,” which practically speaking means that the Senate has to vote on the nomination. A simple majority - 51 votes - will approve the President’s choice, and the judge will take his or her seat on the bench. But this process is complicated somewhat by two factors - the Judiciary Committee and the filibuster.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is a group of twenty US Senators who, among other things, conduct hearings on any nominee to the Supreme Court. (They actually have a fairly broad jurisdiction outside of Supreme Court nominations, but legislative committees are a topic for another day.) The nominee is brought before the panel and basically grilled about how they would rule in certain cases, about their judicial philosophy, even about their background. They do this in order to get the nominee to betray something about their judicial philosophy - are they an originalist? A moderate? Do they believe in a Living Constitution? How would they rule on guns? Abortion? Privacy? Extraordinary rendition?

Before 1955, dragging a judge up before the Judiciary Committee and basically subjecting them to a job interview was done only in extraordinary cases. It was, on the whole, considered quite improper. But as Stephen Carter writes in the New York Times, the 1954 landmark decision in Brown v Board of Education changed the nomination rules forever:

[Brown v Board] changed everything. Infuriated by the Supreme Court’s temerity in striking down public school segregation, the Southern Democrats who in those days still largely ran the Senate began to require that all potential justices give testimony before the Judiciary Committee. When the nominees appeared, the Dixiecrat Senators grilled them on Brown. The first was John Marshall Harlan in 1955, who declined invitations to discuss either specific cases or judicial philosophy as “a matter of propriety.” One by one, later nominees followed his example.


Today, the hearings continue to follow the same model that they did half a century ago, when the Dixiecrats invented them. Senators ask about the nominee’s views on a variety of cases, and the nominee respectfully declines to answer. Then the senators ask about judicial philosophy, and the nominee dances a bit, murmurs a few plain-vanilla reassurances, then clams up. We get no new information.

The Judiciary Committee, while certainly rigorous, is rarely an impediment to nominees. For that, we have to turn to the filibuster. 

For those not up on parliamentary procedure, the filibuster is a tactic often employed in the Senate to block or delay legislation that one or the other party finds particularly objectionable. The rules are simple: A Senator retains the floor for as long as they continue speaking. They can speak about anything, but they must remain standing and speaking for the duration of the filibuster. The Senate can bring an end to the filibuster with a cloture motion, but such a motion requires three-fifths of the Senate - 60 Senators - to vote in favor. These days, even the threat of a filibuster is enough to delay legislation - actual filibusters are relatively rare.

In 2013, the Democratic-led Senate was formulating a last-ditch effort to force approval of several Obama nominees to the US Appeals Court. To do so, they used a tactic which is known colloquially as the “nuclear option,” changing Senate rules to allow filibusters to be ended by a simple majority - 51 votes. But that change only applied to certain nominations - Supreme Court nominees still require 60 votes for cloture.

Today, because the 114th US Senate is controlled by Republicans, they don’t even need to filibuster an Obama nomination to the Supreme Court - the Majority Leader controls the Senate’s agenda, so they can just delay it outright. But the filibuster makes it unlikely that a Supreme Court nomination will go smoothly even after the 2016 election. Even if one party controls both the Senate and the Presidency, that party would require 60 votes in the Senate, which has only happened three times in the last half-century.

One other option exists, and that is for the President to nominate a Justice while the Senate is in recess. Such recess appointments only last until the end of Congress’ next legislative session, at which point they expire. Recess appointments are very rarely used for Supreme Court Justices in the modern era - the last judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court by recess appointment was Potter Stewart, of the infamous “I know it when I see it” line with regards to hardcore pornography. He was a recess appointment by President Eisenhower, and went on to be confirmed by the Senate.

So what, then, will become of Scalia’s successor? Will the position remain unfilled until one party builds enough momentum to take the Presidency and 60 Senate seats? Will the Court even be able to operate effectively with only 8 members? We are in largely uncharted waters, and the answers to these questions are not immediately obvious. The decisions being made in the next few months will almost certainly have repercussions for decades - maybe even centuries - to come.

For more on the Supreme Court, let me also recommend the most recent episode of On The Media, which covers a lot of really good information about how the court actually functions.

Here’s some fun trivia: Today, February 22nd, marks the ten-year anniversary of the last time Justice Clarence Thomas asked a question during oral arguments. His stoicism is well-renowned.

Thank you for writing. As always, you can send your questions in here.

Escape from the Senate

Jeff Shesol examines why the newest crop of senators seems to regard the institution as merely a launching pad to the White House: http://nyr.kr/1i85DVE

“What the Senate really needs is not more prospective Presidents but serious structural reform—including the end of the filibuster and other forms of parliamentary perniciousness, as well as the reinvention, or reinvigoration, of the committee structure. This will not come without a critical mass of senators who see some merit in staying.”

Photograph by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty.