HackWatch: A Good Chunk of the GOP Senate Edition

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Dana Milbank plays gotcha with GOP senators on the filibuster. Surprise! Their feelings on the parliamentary maneuver are largely dependent on who’s in power. He starts with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whose leading the filibuster against U.S. District Judge David Hamilton, Obama’s first appellate court nominee.

For much of this decade, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, now the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, led the fight against Democratic filibusters of George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. He decried Democrats’ “unprecedented, obstructive tactics.” To have Bush nominees “opposed on a partisan filibuster, it is really wrong,” he added. He demanded they get “an up-and-down vote.” He praised Republican leaders because they “opposed judicial filibusters” and have “been consistent on this issue even when it was not to their political benefit to do so.”

So now a Democratic president is in the White House and he has nominated his first appellate judicial nominee, U.S. District Judge David Hamilton. And what did Sessions do? He went to the floor and led a filibuster.

“I opposed filibusters before,” the Alabaman said with his trademark twang. But in this case, he went on, “I don’t agree with his judicial philosophy. Therefore, I believe this side cannot acquiesce into a philosophy that says that Democratic presidents can get their judges confirmed with 50 votes.”

And the others fall into line…

There was, for example, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). Back in 2005, he demanded “a simple up-or-down vote” for nominees and urged the Democrats to “move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.” He declared that Democrats wanted to “take away the power to nominate from the president and grant it to a minority of 41 senators.”

On Tuesday, McConnell voted to sustain the filibuster.

There was also Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.), who in 2005 gave his considered opinion that “neither filibusters nor supermajority requirements have any place in the confirmation process.”

On Tuesday, Brownback voted in favor of filibusters.

And there was Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who warned four years ago that “if the filibuster becomes an institutional response where 40 senators driven by special interest groups declare war on nominees in the future, the consequence will be that the judiciary will be destroyed over time.”

On Tuesday, Graham voted to institutionalize the filibuster.

Not all Republicans senators were inconsistent. Just the vast majority of them. For not even attempting to explain away their hacktasticness, the GOPers get a 9.5 out of 10 on the completely arbitrary Hackery Index.

Last week, HackWatch took aim at lefty Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson for his own flip on the use of the filibuster.

Prior editions of HackWatch here.

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30 Responses to “HackWatch: A Good Chunk of the GOP Senate Edition”

  1. #1 |  JS | 

    I’m probably tired but I didn’t understand a word of that.

  2. #2 |  Waste93 | 

    By the same standard shouldn’t you have included the Democrats that used the filibuster when Bush was President but are now decrying it?

  3. #3 |  phlinn | 

    I’m honestly surprised that none of them claimed revenge as a motivation. That could act as a reasonable deflection of criticism, depending on the rhetoric use.

  4. #4 |  Sydney Carton | 

    Retaliation is a perfectly reasonable motivation here, because otherwise it means that Democrats get to filibuster Republican nominees without consequence. You can be opposed generally to a filibuster of judicial nominees, but no one said that such opposition means unilateral disarmament in the judicial wars.

  5. #5 |  Slim Neri | 

    Jeff Sessions is a great American, and outstanding legal scholar. The guy that runs this site is a shithead.

  6. #6 |  wheeler | 


    that has to be the most ridiculous comment i have ever seen anywhere.

  7. #7 |  Peter | 

    @2, He did, in last week’s hackwatch.

  8. #8 |  Johnny | 

    #5 – You’re hilarious. For a second there I thought you were serious.

  9. #9 |  InMD | 

    The whole filibuster thing is right up there with accusations of judicial activism and the like for me. Neither side has any real principles one way or the other. They decry it when their side is gored and justify it when their side scores a point.

  10. #10 |  Gillespie's Hair | 

    Help! I’ve been kidnapped by Nick Gillespie! Please return me to Rod Balgojevich!

  11. #11 |  Matthew Peck | 

    Aww damnit, I spelled “Blagojevich” wrong…

  12. #12 |  Tokin42 | 


    If that’s supposed to be sarcasm, I’m not getting it.

  13. #13 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Sometimes I get the impression that the rest of the world thinks Alabamians are a bunch of backwoods, inbred, retards. I mean, what the fuck else are they going to think with someone like Sessions as our elected choice for Senator?

  14. #14 |  Bryan | 

    I don’t know if this goes all the way up to 9.5 but I do love this logic:

    “I opposed filibusters before,” the Alabaman said with his trademark twang. But in this case, he went on, “I don’t agree with his judicial philosophy. Therefore, I believe this side cannot acquiesce into a philosophy that says that Democratic presidents can get their judges confirmed with 50 votes.”

    Really????? You opposed filibusters before, but this is a special case because you don’t agree with his judicial philosophy. Is that all it takes? Do you think other Sentators have been using the filibuster when they agree with the nominee’s judicial philosophy?

  15. #15 |  Mattocracy | 

    And everyone who calls you a conservative who just picks on liberals will conveniently miss this post.

  16. #16 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Man claims deputies dressed up deer antlers, relocated porn and sex toys:


    They spent 4 hours “searching” his house while he was handcuffed in the cruiser. During this time, they pulled out the porn tapes, sex toys, and guns, and left all in plain sight.

    Really strange.

  17. #17 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Cop Tasers 10 Year Old “Unruly” Girl


    “He had no other choice. He had to get the child under control.”

    Poor cop, it must just suck to be forced to taser a kid.

  18. #18 |  MattT | 

    IIRC in 2003 the Senate was split 51-49 (counting jeffords as Dem), while in 2009 it’s 60-40. re: Myerson, Do you see any difference in the propriety of a filibuster to obstruct the clear majority at 60-40, vs preventing a steamroll by a 51-49?

    Also, as Milbank suggested and Steve Benen has highlighted….in 2003 Republicans claimed that filibuster by a 49-seat minority was a threat to constitutional government, and threatened the Nuclear Option; in 2009 with a 60 seat majority Dems have complained but mostly accpeted the reality of the filibuster by, for example, attempting to tailor the health care bill to win 60 votes.

    2003/2009: one of these things is not like the other.

    I love your work on crime, the drug war, and police abuses, RB. But the knee-jerk “pox on both their houses” stuff is below your usual grade.

  19. #19 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Sorry, the hits keep coming. I missed this one before. Police officers driving extremely dangerously at 2AM, going 90 MPH through city with no sirens, not on an emergency call, heading back to station. The rest is predictable – two dead teenagers who turned into the path of the speeding officer.

    Here’s where it gets weird. The officer was charged with manslaughter. He’s been arrested and is on paid vacation while the police conduct their “investigation”. He’ll be in court on Nov. 24.


    The video is from another cruiser, also returning from the same call. Officer Jason Anderson, the criminal in this case, passed the recording car on the right (illegally), making me wonder if they were racing.

    The victims are Ashlie Krakowski and David Servin, both just 19 years old. They were coming from a party, and cops are now claiming that they were drunk. You can see where this is going. Watching the video, I think any sane person will agree that their condition had nothing to do with it.

    From this article:

    “The power control module from the police vehicle indicated that for the nearly nine seconds leading up to the crash, Anderson “was at 100 percent of the accelerator pedal and 99.5 of the engine throttle.”

    Smells like racing.

  20. #20 |  M. Zinnen | 

    I used to enjoy reading this site, despite the often depressing content, because I respected Radley’s journalism and was grateful for the information, even if it did raise my blood pressure.

    No longer. Having read Slim Neri’s (post number 5) contribution of unalloyed brilliance, delivered with the sort of eloquence one expects from a poet of the first rank, and formulated in a logic so pure that its crystalline beauty makes me want to weep in joy and awe that such a mind would deign to move in circles such as ours, I realize that that time is now over for us all. I am deeply sorry, fellow agitators, for the granite that is Slim Neri’s arguments, the infallible logic that is his reason, have demonstrated beyond doubt that Radley’s head is, in fact, made entirely of shit. Rend your garments and nash your teeth; our erstwhile hero has been brought low. Alas, that we were blind for so long!

  21. #21 |  M. Zinnen | 

    Sorry, missed the “g”….you should all be gnashing your teeth…

  22. #22 |  M. Zinnen | 

    Sorry for the multi-posting, but I just watched the video link from Michael Chaney (post 17).

    Notice in the video he linked to the training officer says that using the taser as a stun gun just inflicts pain, but does not incapacitate. He specifically says a person can still “pull away, still fight back”. So what is the point of using it then? As retribution? Just to torture or “discipline” the child? Is that what people now consider the proper role of police officers?

  23. #23 |  Guido | 

    Ditto what Mattocracy said. And ditto what Radley said this week and last.

  24. #24 |  Radley Balko | 

    I love your work on crime, the drug war, and police abuses, RB. But the knee-jerk “pox on both their houses” stuff is below your usual grade.

    Well, get used to it. Because both houses damned well deserve to be inflicted with a variety of poxes.

    Don’t like it, go elsewhere. If you want to be spoon-fed DNC talking points with a smattering of civil liberties stories, try Daily Kos. This is a libertarian website. Which means I have no love for either of the two major parties.

    I’m seriously sick of this “criticizing Democrats is beneath you, Radley” crap from people on the left who have started coming to this site. It’s haughty, smug, self-righteous, and frankly, bullshit.

    As for the point of the post, either you believe bills should pass the Senate with a majority, or you believe the minority should have the option to filibuster. Whether they filibuster with 41 votes or 49 votes is beside the point. It’s even weirder that you’d make this criticism on a post criticizing Republicans.

  25. #25 |  Nathan R | 

    I’ve never commented here, but I felt the need to today. As an unabashed leftie, I 100% disagree with Radley on a number of issues (naturally, his stories on crime, abuse of police powers, [most] civil liberties are the exception and the reason I come here in the first place). That being said, he of course has the right to his opinion, and while I sometimes get upset that Mr. Balko doesn’t always agree with me, he always makes me think and occasionally reconsider my own opinions (though I rarely change them). I commend Mr. Balko for that, as I rarely find arguments as rational and cohesive as his.

    And thank you for highlighting the hypocrisy of both parties on this issue. Of course Republicans have the right to filibuster.

  26. #26 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    There’s ONE party. Not two.

  27. #27 |  Sam | 


    While you’re obviously free to slam whichever commenters you want, I think that the comment you’re replying to was trying to observe that there’s a slight difference between what Republicans were doing (and threatening) during their own possession of the majority and what is happening now. So yes, a pox on both of their houses, but in this particular case, the Republicans seems to be serving up an extra helping of douchiness with this, because the Democrats aren’t doing/threatening any of the extreme measures that the Republicans did.

  28. #28 |  buzz | 

    “So yes, a pox on both of their houses, but in this particular case, the Republicans seems to be serving up an extra helping of douchiness with this, because the Democrats aren’t doing/threatening any of the extreme measures that the Republicans did.”

    You seriously think that if the majority was 51/49 right now, the democrats would be doing something different?

  29. #29 |  » Filibuster Hypocrisy | 

    […] instance, The Agitator, a libertarian and not a leftist, points to a column by WaPo’s Dana Millbank on the Senate […]

  30. #30 |  MattT | 

    Not to beat a dead thread, but a couple of things need saying.

    First, Radley, my tone in that earlier comment was crappy, and for that I apologize.

    I’m not “people on the Left who have started coming to the site.” I’ve read The Agitator pretty regularly for years, back to before Overkill came out. I’ve visited this site probably 5 times as often as I’ve visited DailyKos.

    I’m a little to your left on spending but I’d still like to see libertarians have a louder voice on fiscal policy, as a counterweight to the “tax the rich and throw their money at every problem” attitude on the far left. And, of course, I agree with you to a large degree on many issues like the drug war and civil liberties, and a lot of foreign adventures.

    I’m far from alone, and the fact is there’s a lot of common ground between you and big chunks of the Democratic party. I’m not saying libertarians should drink the Dem Kool-Aid, but there’s room for Dems and libertarians to work together to effect positive change on issues we agree on.

    Unfortunately, as exemplified by this post and what i feel is the false equivalence drawn – too many libertarians seem intent on marginalizing themselves, with an apparent goal of carving out a place as righteously independent, but irrelevant, curmudgeons. This attitude is also reflected in your “go elsewhere” comment.

    I’m not going anywhere, your reporting and commentary on many issues important to me is too valuable.

    There was some talk a while back about an alliance between libertarians and “liberaltarians.” What happened to all that?

    And I’m not sure why it was weird to bring up Myerson’s column, since the only reference I’ve seen to it at The Agitator was this post.