U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is upset that President Barack Obama's nominees can be filibustered. Under Senate rules, at least 60 members must vote to end debate and move forward on nominations or legislation. This week, Reid urged changing the rule to require a simple majority — but only for executive nominees.
“We're not touching judges,” Reid, D-Nev., recently proclaimed. “This is not judges. This is not legislation.”
Few take Reid at his word. No doubt, his plan is only a first step. But it's telling that Reid prioritizes executive nominees over judges. Take a step back, and this makes perfect sense: Liberals increasingly rely on regulatory agencies to enact policies through rule-making rather than legislative change. The practice undermines the small-d democratic process and public debate.
To a disturbing degree, control of regulatory agencies makes the text of actual laws irrelevant. When regulators can run wild, it doesn't matter what the law says or which judges are seated. Legal challenges to regulatory actions are prohibitively expensive; citizens often relent to regulations that may be illegal or unconstitutional. When court challenges are filed, it can take years for a case to reach a conclusion.
Among the appointments Reid sought to ram through the Senate are union-backed nominees for the National Labor Relations Board and a new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Both entities are notorious for activism that tramples citizens' legal rights.
Courts have ruled some Obama appointees to the NLRB were illegally seated without Senate approval; subsequent decisions of the board are therefore invalid. Yet the NLRB continues to operate in defiance of unambiguous court rulings. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the issue.
Under Obama, the NLRB most notably, if briefly, sued Boeing for “violating federal labor law” because the company planned to open an aircraft production plant in right-to-work South Carolina rather than its home state of Washington. The lawsuit was widely seen as an illegitimate, pro-union extortion tactic.