Newsradio 850 KOA host Mike Rosen repeated a Republican talking point in falsely claiming the Democrats' use of the filibuster to block a vote on President Bush's judicial nominees was “a departure from past precedent.” In fact, Republicans long have used the filibuster, along with other tactics, to block Democratic nominees.
On the January 12 broadcast of his Newsradio 850 KOA show, host Mike Rosen echoed a conservative falsehood by claiming that “the use of the filibuster to block an up-or-down vote on nominees who had enough votes to get Senate confirmation ... was a departure from past precedent” and “an example of Democrat (sic) obstructionism.” In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Republicans have a long history of using the filibuster -- and other tactics -- to block Democratic nominees.
During the broadcast, Rosen discussed Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (KY) recent threat to filibuster a vote on a resolution demonstrating opposition to President Bush's recently announced plan to send an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq. Rosen stated it was “delicious that McConnell had threatened to use the Democrats' own device against them.”
However, despite Rosen's claim that the filibuster would be “a departure from past precedent,” Media Matters has noted that Republicans initiated a filibuster against a judicial nominee in 1968, forcing Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson to withdraw the nomination of Associate Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas to be chief justice. Then-Sen. Robert Griffin (R-MI) recognized at the time that denying nominees a vote was already an established practice. “It is important to realize that it has not been unusual for the Senate to indicate its lack of approval for a nomination by just making sure that it never came to a vote on the merits. As I said, 21 nominations to the court have failed to win Senate approval. But only nine of that number were rejected on a direct, up-and-down vote,” Griffin said, according to a May 10, 2005, New York Times op-ed by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME).
Cloture votes to end filibusters also were necessary to obtain floor votes on President Bill Clinton's judicial nominees Richard A. Paez and Marsha L. Berzon in 2000, and Republicans attempted to filibuster the nomination of U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994. Rosen's statement criticizing Democratic “obstructionism” also disregards the other tactics the Republican-controlled Senate used to block dozens of Clinton nominees in committee.
As Media Matters noted, the Republican-controlled Senate blocked approximately 60 Clinton nominees through means other than the filibuster. This included strict enforcement of the “blue slip” policy, which at the time allowed a senator from a nominee's home state to block a nominee simply by failing to turn in the blue-colored approval papers required for the nomination process. While Judiciary Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) strictly adhered to the “blue slip” policy to allow Republicans to block Clinton nominees, he relaxed the policy nearly to the point of elimination in his efforts to push through Bush's nominees. For example, Hatch held committee votes on the nominations of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Carolyn B. Kuhl over the objections of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), as well as four 6th Circuit nominees over their home state senators' objections.
From the January 12 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show:
ROSEN: Ironically, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell -- and I love the irony in this -- he has, he has threatened a filibuster in the Senate if the Democrats try to take a vote on such resolution. A non-binding resolution. And I say it's ironic because of the Democrats' use of the filibuster tool to block many of George Bush's Supreme Court -- excuse me, federal court nominees. Now, the use of a filibuster to block legislation is traditional and it's why that rule exists in the Senate. The big controversy over the use of the filibuster to block an up-or-down vote on nominees who had enough votes to get Senate confirmation, both in committee and in the entire Senate -- that was a departure from past precedent. That was an example of Democrat obstructionism when they were the minority party in the Senate. It's certainly not unprecedented for the minority party to block a vote on legislation, even this non-binding resolution, in the Senate. And I -- I just thought, it's delicious that McConnell had threatened to use the Democrats' own device against them -- a filibuster to block this vote.