This is just too much, all this babyish caterwauling from Mitch McConnell. This is only about executive-branch appointees. That's the only kind of vote that Harry Reid & Co. would seek to permit passage on a simple-majority basis.
A president has the right to appoint the people he wants. Period. And yes, I will say this if and when Ted Cruz or Rand Paul is president. If Cruz were to win a presidential election, and he wanted to name some Texas nut as his attorney general, well, he won the election; so be it. And of course if the voters in their wisdom elect a President Cruz and a Democratically controlled Senate, then he might not get everyone he wants, but that will be because the voters decided to split the White House and Senate, not because a small band of willfull men decided to hold up dozens of appointments.
It's a ridiculous situation. The founders did think about all this, by the way, and they went well beyond the saucer-cooling-the-tea line that conservative readers are itching to post in the comment thread. This is from a piece I wrote in The New York Review a couple of years ago:
But aside from limited instances, such as the expulsion of a member, it does not follow that the founders wanted supermajorities. As Sarah A. Binder and Steven S. Smith show in their book Politics or Principle? some founders—George Mason of Virginia among them—backed supermajority requirements, but many were suspicious of them. The Continental Congress, under the Articles of Confederation, had been run on the supermajority principle—most legislation needed the support of two thirds of the states, or nine out of thirteen, to pass—and the results were unsatisfying. James Madison acknowledged that “more than a majority” might be justifiable in limited instances but argued that requirements for a supermajority were open to a decisive objection:
In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transferred to the minority.
Alexander Hamilton echoed this view in Federalist No. 22: “To give a minority a negative upon the majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is requisite to a decision) is … to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser number.” He added that such a provision would “destroy the energy of government,” handing outsize power to “an insignificant, turbulent or corrupt junto.”
“Turbulent junto” certainly describes the Senate GOP caucus. TPM reports that Reid has 51 votes, with only Carl Levin, Mark Pryor, and Max Baucus the apparent nos (Baucus—retiring, not facing his voters again, and still voting no). I hope a showdown is forced tomorrow. It would be disappointing and anticlimactic in the extreme if they broker a deal at this meeting they're having tonight at 6:00. I want to see the steam coming out of Mitch's ears, and, more important, I think the rule should change.