Compare that Russian meteor hit earlier this week to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. Got that? Now think about the Chuck Hagel filibuster — and what we can expect if a Supreme Court seat opens up sometime soon.
The Hagel filibuster seems to have fired up interest in Senate procedure, but it’s actually a little difficult to figure out what, if anything, is so unprecedented. The one thing that’s clearly new is that it’s the first time a cabinet nominee has lost a cloture vote. However, it’s certainly not the first time that 60 votes was required for a cabinet post; it’s not the first time that a cabinet nomination was delayed by opposition; and if current reports are correct, it won’t be the first time a cabinet nomination has been defeated by a filibuster. It certainly isn’t the first time a cloture vote has failed on an executive branch pick, or even a high-profile pick.
Some of this is just partisanship. Republicans are making the absurd claim that a 60-vote requirement isn’t a filibuster. Democrats are exaggerating how unprecedented this move is.
Still, the political press, and perhaps even Senate Democrats, seem surprised that Republicans really mean what they’ve been saying ever since Barack Obama was elected about requiring 60 votes to move anything through the Senate. And if there was a Senate norm against filibustering cabinet nominations, Republicans have no intention of honoring it.
And that matters because of the other supposed “tradition” that will be tested the first time there’s a Supreme Court opening: No Court selection has been denied by filibuster.