IN 2005, when Barack Obama was still a U.S. senator and George W. Bush was president, Obama vigorously defended the filibuster. He called it a “means of protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority” created by the nation's Founding Fathers.
As president, Obama's view changed. In late 2012, Obama supported revising U.S. Senate rules to limit filibusters. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer issued a statement declaring, “The president has said many times that the American people are demanding action ... They want to see progress, not partisan delay games.” Pfeiffer complained several bills supported by the Obama administration “weren't even allowed to be debated,” and that judicial nominations and other administration nominees “are routinely forced to wait months for an up-or-down vote.”
The administration took a “that was then, this is now” attitude toward the clear contradiction in Obama's two stances, just as they did regarding his about-face on gay marriage, the use of military drones and domestic surveillance. Now, the president has reversed course on the filibuster yet again.
Last week, the Republican-controlled Texas Senate brought up a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, and require that abortions be performed at surgical centers. Under that last provision, only five of Texas' 42 abortion clinics could remain in operation unless upgrades were made.
Naturally, the bill drew heated opposition from those supporting abortion, including Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who spent much of a day filibustering the bill. She ultimately succeeded in preventing action before a midnight deadline. Through his official Twitter account, Obama noted Davis' filibuster, declaring, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight.”
So, based on Obama's own words and his spokesman's past statements, should we conclude Obama now thinks that it's “special” when lawmakers engage in “partisan delay games”?