Glenn links to a mysterious tweet by a mysterious twit from Media Matters:
what press cannot bring itself to report this week: Dems have NEVER EVER mounted a campaign to block cabinet pick the way GOP is w/ Hagel
Bryan Preston responds with two words - John Tower.
I will respond with an excerpt from the NY Times, which is one of the few media outlets that might be to the left of Media Matters:
Blocking such a high-level presidential appointee is a rare move. Since 1917, when the Senate’s modern filibuster rules were created, a cabinet-level nominee has faced a supermajority barrier to confirmation only twice: Ronald Reagan’s nominee for commerce secretary in 1987, C. William Verity Jr., and George W. Bush’s nominee for interior secretary in 2006, Dirk Kempthorne.
I guess it depends on what Boehlert means by "this way". Maybe if he is defining "this way" to be "rejecting a turncoat from their own party" he has a point.
Otherwise, we are left to conclude that the media is soft-pedaling the idea of an unprecedented-except-for-the-precedents breach of Senatorial etiquette because it was OK when Reagan or Bush were President. Tough call.
MORE: From Salon:
Simply put, we’re in uncharted territory. Look at it this way: Hagel is on course to be the first Pentagon nominee and only the third Cabinet nominee ever to face a 60-vote requirement for confirmation. But even that understates it, because the other two – C. William Verity and Dirk Kempthorne – weren’t up against serious filibusters.
Verity was a 70-year-old retired steel executive when he was nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1987 to run the Commerce department. His nomination wasn’t particularly controversial, but it did stir the ire of the far right. (Hard as it is to believe now, there were plenty of conservative leaders who doubted Reagan’s commitment to the cause during his presidency.) At issue was Verity’s enthusiasm for increased trade between the United States and the Soviet Union, a no-no for any Cold War-era hawk. Verity had previously spoken out against the Reagan administration’s policy of linking the emigration of Soviet Jews to trade goals.
This prompted Jesse Helms, who was a regular thorn in Reagan’s side in the ‘80s, to mount a filibuster. But it only succeeded in slowing down the nomination for a few days; when it was filed, the cloture motion passed on an 85-8 vote. The final tally for Verity’s October ’87 confirmation: 84-11.
The other Cabinet choice to confront a filibuster was Dirk Kempthorne, George W. Bush’s pick to run the Interior department in 2006. Kempthorne was Idaho’s governor at the time, and he was also a former senator. The filibuster against him amounted to election year grandstanding by Florida’s Bill Nelson, who was up for reelection that November. To protest the Bush administration’s efforts to encourage oil and gas drilling off his state’s coast, Nelson placed a hold on the Kempthorne nomination, forcing Republicans to come up with 60 votes. Again, this slowed the nomination slightly, but it was purely a symbolic stand. Cloture passed by an 85-8 margin and Kempthorne was approved by the full Senate on a voice vote.
A guest piece at The Hill has even more examples, including previous Republican blocking maneuvers:
Cloture was attempted successfully to end filibusters of the nominations of: Dirk Kempthorne for secretary of the Interior in 2006; Robert J. Portman for U.S. Trade Representative in 2005; Stephen L. Johnson for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2005; Michael O. Leavitt for EPA Administrator in 2003; and C. William Verity for secretary of Commerce in 1987. Every one of these nominees were chosen by Republican administrations and primary support for each filibuster came from Democrats in the Senate including, in some cases, current President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Kerry and former Secretary of State Clinton.
Further, a cloture attempt was withdrawn to end a filibuster of Hilda Solis, outgoing Secretary of Labor in the Obama Administration. And by unanimous consent, the Senate agreed to a 60-vote threshold (the same as required to overcome a filibuster) for confirmation of two other Obama Administration cabinet nominees – Kathleen Sebelius for secretary of Health and Human Services and John Bryson for secretary of Commerce.
So, coming back to the question of whether to filibuster the Hagel nomination, we see that not only are filibusters of cabinet-level nominees not unprecedented, there are several such precedents. An alternate anti-filibuster argument is that there has never been a successful filibuster of a cabinet-level nominee, but this claim is also false. It is difficult – if not impossible – to show that such a filibuster has never succeeded, given the broad definition of the term. Several cabinet-level nominees have withdrawn following delays on consideration of their nominations. John R. Bolton’s nomination by President George W. Bush to be U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations – a cabinet-level position under Presidents Clinton and Obama but not President Bush – also was not confirmed after a concerted, Democratic-led filibuster. Bolton received a recess appointment in 2005 and left office at the end of 2006 after the Senate again failed to act on his nomination.