Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Robert Reich

Bachmann retirement eclipses bigger Congress showdown

Michelle Bachman's retirement is small potatoes relative to the biggest political and economic issue emerging in Congress, Reich writes. The president is nominating judges to fill three crucial DC court of appeals vacancies at once, Reich adds, and he needs Harry Reid's help.

By Guest blogger / May 29, 2013

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. pauses as he speaks with reporters as he leaves the weekly Democratic Caucus Lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington. Harry Reid punted on changing Senate filibuster rules, but he could propose changing them for judicial appointments, Reich writes, which he can accomplish with the votes of 51 senators.

Cliff Owen/AP/File

Enlarge

Don’t be sidetracked today with the news of Michelle Bachmann’s decision not to run again. That’s small potatoes relative to the biggest political and economic issue — and showdown — emerging in Congress.

Skip to next paragraph

Robert is chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including “The Work of Nations,” his latest best-seller “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future," and a new e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His new movie, "Inequality for All," is available on Netflix. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Recent posts

Some background: The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit isn’t just the main feeder into the Supreme Court (four of the current nine justices served there before ascending to the Supremes) but, even more critically, is the court that reviews most major federal regulations — those emerging under Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, the Environmental Protection Agency, and hundreds of other laws and agencies.

Four of its current judges were appointed by Republican presidents; three by Democrats. It has three vacancies. Senate Republicans want to keep the current ratio of four to three, and have no interest in giving Obama a majority on this important court. They’ve held up almost all of Obama’s court appointments, sometimes for years, effectively preventing him from putting his picks in the federal court system as elsewhere. 

Now the President is nominating judges to fill all three of these crucial D.C. court of appeals vacancies at once. He’s also looking ahead at the strong probability that at least one Supreme Court justice, most likely Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will retire within the next two years, and he’ll need to get a replacement through the Senate.  

Senate Republicans under the cynical direction of Mitch McConnell have abused the filibuster system, preventing votes on almost everything the President has wanted.

Harry Reid punted on changing the filibuster rules, but he could — and in my view now should — propose changing them for judicial appointments, which he can accomplish with the votes of 51 senators.

A president’s court picks shouldn’t require 60 Senate votes. The Constitution is quite specific about when “super-majorities” are needed, and makes no mention of super-majorities for court appointments.

Reid is not known for his strong backbone, but here’s an instance where he owes his backbone to posterity. You might even write to him and tell him so.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This post originally ran on www.robertreich.org.

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!