Broken

Broken

Finally, four months after his nomination, Harold Koh has been confirmed by the Senate as the State Department’s legal advisor. Various Republican Senators have put holds on Koh. They threatened to filibuster, and 31 of them voted against cloture.

The Republicans who voted in favor of his nomination were Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Richard Lugar, Mel Martinez, and George Voinovich. Those who had the decency to vote for cloture even though they opposed his appointment were Lamar Alexander, Judd Gregg, and Orrin Hatch.

Meanwhile, Dawn Johnsen’s nomination remains on hold, although TPMDC reports that she has — gasp — been seen in DC, so maybe things are looking up on that front as well.

This should not be happening. Normally, nominees for administration positions are confirmed unless there’s some reason to think that the nominee is just beyond the pale. But this time, the Republicans seem to have decided that they will filibuster things at will. The government cannot function this way. The Senate is broken, and it needs to be fixed.

I’m in favor of having a filibuster so long as it is used only in extreme situations. But the understanding that it will be so used has broken down. Reporters who should know better routinely write that some bill or nominee cannot get “the sixty votes needed to pass”, as though it were standard operating procedure for the Senate to require a supermajority.

It is not. And if the Senate Republicans want to make it into one, it’s time to end the filibuster (though I’d be open to keeping it for judicial appointments, which are for life.)