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Beltway Confidential

Then and now: The hilarious hypocrisy of New York Times editorials on the filibuster

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The New York Times editorial Friday praises Senate Democrats for ending the Senate filibuster on Thursday, but that wasn't the case when Republicans considered the idea in 2005.

Here are some comparisons from when Republicans were in the majority versus Democrats in the majority and the right of the minority party to block judicial nominees. (H/t to Patterico for pointing this out.)

2005 editorial headline: "Senator Frist Approaches the Brink"

2013 editorial headline: "Democracy Returns to the Senate"

On demanding an up-or-down vote on presidential nominations:

2005: Of all the hollow arguments Senate Republicans have made in their attempt to scrap the opposition's right to have a say on President Bush's judicial nominees, the one that's most hypocritical insists that history is on their side in demanding a "simple up-or-down vote" on the Senate floor.

2013: From now on, if any senator tries to filibuster a presidential nominee, that filibuster can be stopped with a simple majority, not the 60-vote requirement of the past. That means a return to the democratic process of giving nominees an up-or-down vote, allowing them to be either confirmed or rejected by a simple majority.

On the Senate majority leader:

On Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in 2005:

But the majority leader is ignoring that history. With his eye clearly on a presidential run, he is playing to his party's extremist gallery by orchestrating a hazardous rules change that would block Democrats from following his example on a few of President Bush's most ideologically extreme and least qualified judicial nominees.

On Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2013:

It would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, when the majority leader, Harry Reid, was still holding out hope for a long-lasting deal with Republicans and insisting that federal judges, because of their lifetime appointments, should still be subject to supermajority thresholds.

On the historical tradition of minority rights in the Senate:

2005: This is all part of the Senate's time-honored deliberative role and of its protection of minority rights, which Republican leaders would now desecrate in overreaching from their majority perch.

2013: But the Constitution gives presidents the right to nominate top officials in their administration and name judges, and it says nothing about the ability of a Senate minority to stop them. (The practice barely existed before the 1970s.)

On Democrats using the filibuster in 2005:

This is a worthy fight, and the filibuster is a necessary weapon, considering that these are lifetime appointments to the powerful appellate judiciary, just below the Supreme Court.

On Republicans using the filibuster in 2013:

Given the extreme degree of Republican obstruction during the Obama administration, the Democrats had little choice but to change the filibuster rule.

Conclusion 2005:

A few moderate senators from both parties — realizing that the Senate's prestige is at stake, as much as its history — are seeking a compromise. We hope President Bush will step in to help find a solution. Otherwise, warns his fellow Republican Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the result will be the harmful crimping of minority rights in a proud deliberative body and "a dark, protracted era of divisive partisanship."

Conclusion 2013:

Democrats made the filibuster change with a simple-majority vote, which Republicans insisted was a violation of the rules. There is ample precedent for this kind of change, though it should be used judiciously. Today’s vote was an appropriate use of that power, and it was necessary to turn the Senate back into a functioning legislative body.

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