Rush Limbaugh spent a substantial portion of his radio show ranting about the Senate Democrats' decision to invoke the so-called “nuclear option,” which would allow President Obama's judicial and executive nominees to finally be confirmed through a simple majority vote, a practice that had ground to a halt because of the GOP's mass filibusters.
On his November 21 show, Limbaugh inaccurately stated that President Obama could now increase the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit, and accused Democrats of seeking “total statist authoritarianism” :
Obama's going to get every judge he wants. He's going to get -- if they want to add seats to a court -- if they want to add five new liberal seats to the D.C. Circuit, for example, they can do it, there's no stopping them, because the Republicans don't have the votes.
Democrats abruptly changed the Senate's balance of power by reducing from 60 to 51 the number of votes needed to end procedural roadblocks known as filibusters against all presidential nominees. Folks, this is part and parcel of why the Democrats are so hell-bent on winning the House in 2014. This -- winning the House would give them total authoritarian non-challengeable control over the US government. Quite literally there would be no way to stop them. None whatsoever.
When the minority is Republicans, they don't even exist. And they're not due any respect, constitutional or otherwise. Constitutional or human. And so basically what this means, with a president like Obama, is there's no stopping -- he can nominate anybody for anything in the judiciary ... cabinet, whatever. There's no way he can be stopped.
Democrats have made it plain they're not interested in democracy. And that really is what this means. Not interested in democracy at all. Total statist authoritarianism. And frankly, I'm being kind with that terminology.
Rush went on to say that if Democrats wanted to “nominate avowed Communists to be judges, there's no stopping them now ... If Obama wants to nominate [Syrian President] Bashar Assad to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, there's no stopping him. ... How about they want to make Bill Ayers a judge, or Jeremiah Wright?”
Setting aside the obvious fact that none of those people will ever become judges in the United States, Limbaugh completely misunderstands how new judgeships are created. In embracing the so-called “nuclear option,” Senate Democrats changed the procedural rules so that Obama's judicial and executive nominees could finally be confirmed by an up-or-down vote after months of unprecedented blanket obstructionism from the GOP. This simple majority vote requirement does not extend to Supreme Court nominees.
Judgeships, on the other hand, are not created through the nomination and appointment process. Rather, new judgeships are created through the normal legislative process. As the United States Courts website helpfully explains:
Court of appeals and district court judgeships are created by legislation that must be enacted by Congress. The Judicial Conference (through its Judicial Resources Committee) surveys the judgeship needs of the courts every other year. A threshold for the number of weighted filings per judgeship is the key factor in determining when an additional judgeship will be requested. Other factors may include geography, number of senior judges, and mix of cases. The Judicial Conference presents its judgeship recommendations to Congress.
It should be noted that the Judicial Conference, headed by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, recently recommended to Congress that the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit remain at eleven. What Rush is scare mongering about is actually a real example of court-packing, a conspiratorial proposal that is not actually on the table, and is completely unrelated to filibuster reform.
Limbaugh's meltdown continued throughout his show, where he proceeded to accuse Obama of "play[ing] dictator" and erroneously stated that Republicans blocked Obama's nominees because "they're all extreme leftists who are unqualified." In actuality, the GOP has been relatively open about the fact they have no problem with the nominees' qualifications.