The Washington Post's Fact Checker column today addresses an assertion of Kentucky's Alison Lundergan Grimes – Democratic challenger to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell – regarding the extent to which McConnell has blocked the Senate from taking action. In discussing the Senate procedures regarding filibusters and cloture motions, the column totally rewrites the history of one of Majority Leader Harry Reid's key efforts to combat that obstruction.
It is no secret that Senate Republicans have routinely obstructed all of President Obama's judicial nominees, including those who no one actually opposes. At best, the GOP gums up the works and forces months of needless delay. Early last year, frustrated by McConnell's refusal to allow the Senate to vote on long-stalled consensus nominees, Reid filed cloture petitions on 17 of them. That such drastic action was needed to get movement on routine district court nominations demonstrated the depths to which the Senate GOP had sunk.
Unfortunately, the Fact Checker has rewritten this incident into one where Sen. Reid filed cloture just to speed things along even though no one was slowing them down:
[A Senate] chart shows that there have been 433 cloture motions filed since 2007 [when McConnell became Minority Leader].
But that does not mean these are all "filibusters" — or that McConnell was responsible for all of them. Any Senator, on either side of the aisle, may object to a vote. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) often files cloture on multiple bills or nominations at once to speed things along even if no one is slowing things down.
On March 12, 2012, for instance, Reid filed 12 cloture motions on nominees; all of the motions were withdrawn and all of the nominees with approved without any objection. And in 2007, Reid filed a cloture motion a mere 45 minutes after an amendment was first offered.
It is important that history not be rewritten to cover up the unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees the nation has suffered at the GOP's hands since President Obama took office.
And now is an opportune moment to reflect on that history of obstruction, since Democrats have just filed a cloture petition to end the filibuster of the first of President Obama's three highly qualified nominees to the DC Circuit.