Rand Paul, Fox News and the Filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid forced the Republicans to make some concessions on the use of the filibuster on several Obama administration nominations for various non-judicial posts earlier this week, but a Rand Paul appearance on Fox News elicited one of the weirdest arguments for the filibuster you’ll ever hear. The interview was done by the astonishingly stupid Eric Bolling:

“For that reason, to call attention to what they’re trying to do, especially if you’re in the minority you an do that and, frankly, if you didn’t have a filibuster, what would stop President Obama from appointing say Al Sharpton as attorney general or Rachel Maddow on the Supreme Court,” host Eric Bolling added.

“Right,” Paul responded. “If you were to get an extremist like that, someone with an extreme point of view, the majority here could pass it with 51 votes, but with the filibuster then it would take 60 votes, so you’re less likely to get someone with those kinds of extreme views to be nominated and approved by the Senate.”

What would stop President Obama from doing that? How about the fact that neither Sharpton nor Maddow are attorneys? And Rand Paul gets his history wrong:

“I think the leverage of using the filibuster to get information and to make the President obey the law, I think it is a very important tool and our Founding Fathers put it in there for precisely this reason,” Paul said on Fox News.

The Founding Fathers didn’t “put it in there.” There is not a word about it in the Constitution, only that the Senate may make its own rules. The first Senate rules, in 1789, did not include the filibuster; in fact, the rules included a motion to end debate and move the question to the floor for a vote. It wasn’t until 1806 that the rules were changed to make a filibuster even possible and it took until the 1830s for even the threat of a filibuster to be made. It wasn’t until the 1850s that filibusters became even an occasional tactic.

32 comments on this post.
  1. Modusoperandi:

    “What would stop President Obama from appointing say Al Sharpton as attorney general or Rachel Maddow on the Supreme Court?” We are talking about the same Obama here, aren’t we? I mean, this is the guy who’s such an extreme Leftist he nominated a recent Republican Senator for SecDef.

  2. hunter:

    So add history to the list of things that Rand Paul doesn’t know anything about.

  3. gshelley:

    Also, it might be possible that there are some Democrats with some integrity, who would not agree to those positions, just as there were some Republicans who objected to Myers when Bush nominated her.

  4. Who Knows?:

    To the Rand Paul’s of the world, the important thing about history is what they imagine, not what actually happened.

  5. Jordan Genso:

    If you were to get an extremist like that, someone with an extreme point of view, the majority here could pass it with 51 votes, but with the filibuster then it would take 60 votes

    Why stop at 60? Since it is possible that the majority party could have 60 members in the Senate, there’s no reason his rationale (that every member of the majority party would vote in favor of putting Rachel Maddow on the Supreme Court) wouldn’t apply just as equally to the 60 votes. The only logical conclusion, if you accept his premise, is that all votes must require either unanimous consent or at least a certain number of votes from the minority party.

    I have a feeling that those who want to drown the government in a bathtub wouldn’t actually find that requirement to be a problem (though they would allow exceptions for “national defense”, of course).

  6. irisvanderpluym:

    Sharpton and Maddow are “extremists”? LMAO.

  7. yoav:

    While I agree that the filibuster can serve a important role in allowing the minority to get their point heard the way it can be down now by just sending an email saying you’re filibustering a bill need to be killed, decapitated, have a stake thrust through it’s heart and buried in a lead line coffin under a crossroad. If a senator feel that an issue is important enough they should have to make the effort to get on the floor and speak like Wendy Davis, or for that matter Rand Paul did. This way the filibusterer (is that the right term) can both actually get their objections on the record and on the other hand be held accountable if the public decides they were doing it just to be an abstractionist jackass.

  8. Zeno:

    From Rand Paul’s perspective, way out there on the tea-party right-wing fringe, everyone looks like a left-wing extremist. That would include Eisenhower, no doubt. And Lincoln, too. I hear Lincoln stole a lot of property from law-abiding, God-fearing Americans when he freed the slaves. Honest Abe was probably a socialist.

  9. dcsohl:

    I seem to recall a very recent incident (well, 6.5 years ago) when a President named an eminently UNqualified individual to the Supreme Court when his party held the majority of the Senate… there was concern and outrage on BOTH sides of the aisle. He withdrew the nomination before it even could be filibustered.

    I expect that’s what you’d see if Al Sharpton was named AG or Maddow nominated to the Supreme Court.

    I’m personally OK with there being a filibuster option for Supreme Court nominations. That’s important enough that there should be widespread consensus on it. Everything else, though – even Circuit Court judges – should be straight up or down.

  10. exdrone:

    Simple majorities are a bitch. With them, you can end up with senators like Paul.

  11. Dr X:

    He has a point. If the Republicans regain a majority, what’s to stop them from legalizing the slaughter of poor people for meat to be served at restaurants favored by investment bankers and hedge fund managers?

  12. thebookofdave:

    Thanks for keeping the list up to date, @hunter. I was afraid of running out of space for the extra file cabinets.

  13. Chiroptera:

    “For that reason, to call attention to what they’re trying to do, especially if you’re in the minority you an do that and, frankly, if you didn’t have a filibuster, what would stop President Obama from appointing say Al Sharpton as attorney general or Rachel Maddow on the Supreme Court,” host Eric Bolling added.

    And they should know. They do belong to the party, after all, that nominated Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

  14. exdrone:

    On Tuesday, John Oliver used a People for the American Way summary that shows how cloture votes on executive nominees has gotten out of control. From Eisenhower to Bush I, there were 4 in total. Clinton and Bush II received 9 and 7, respectively. Obama has had 16 in his first term and was projected to receive 28 in his second term. Something had to be done.

  15. Chiroptera:

    Oh, and maybe Ed should bring back his series on “exchanging the scripts.” Isn’t this the party that during the previous Administration was insisting that the President should be given a pass on his nominations?

  16. coffeehound:

    @ 9,

    I’m personally OK with there being a filibuster option for Supreme Court nominations. That’s important enough that there should be widespread consensus on it.

    I agree strongly with this in general terms, however in these times of extremist obstructionism, enough Republicans have redefined ‘general consensus’ to mean ‘only my extreme preference’ that they’ve ground the whole process down to a halt. Everything to the left of Ted Cruz is now radical.
    And I understand the argument for saving the filibuster for a time when the minority opinion is the reasonable opinion, but this also assumes that the extremists are still willing to play by the same rules when they’re on the other side of the filibuster; I haven’t seen anything that makes me confident that they play by any rules but their own .I don’t think they’ll give a second thought to circumventing the rule if it suits them.
    Not saying I have an answer, just grousing because, short of a revolution coming from the more reasonable Republicans within their own party I don’t see an easy way out.

  17. david:

    “what would stop President Obama from appointing say…”

    Indeed, what would stop him from appointing a dog? That’s where the conservatives usually seem to end up, on the gay marriage debate. Why not bring that up here, too?

  18. Reginald Selkirk:

    It wasn’t until the 1850s that filibusters became even an occasional tactic.

    And it was changed much more recently, so the warnings about historical continuity are empty. It used to be that you had to, you know, actually filibuster. Get up there and hold the floor for hours or days. Now, it’s more like each and every senator has veto power.

  19. gopiballava:

    This seems like the sort of typical founding father fetishism that is common for people with his mindset. The founding fathers did everything right and wonderful and everything bad is a corruption of the original immaculately conceived system. I suspect that his assertion that the founders created the filibuster is just a cognitive short circuit (shortcut) based on that deep assumption.

    Is it really that hard for the founding fathers to have been brilliant, years ahead of their time, yet also imperfect and creating things that now need to be changed and fixed?

    I don’t see how you can point to a document that permitted slavery and say “we need to do *x* the way they did it! because they knew better than us.” They got one rather critical thing wrong. Wrong enough that you need to point to the reasons they did something if you want to argue that it’s correct. (Which is actually going to be the way you need to do things anyway. No matter how perfect somebody seemed you can’t assume they were perfect…)

  20. Stacy:

    Rachel Maddow has “extreme views”? lol.

    “I’m undoubtedly a liberal, which means that I’m in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform.” –Rachel Maddow

  21. illdoittomorrow:

    Modus @1

    All that proves is that the pinkofascist athieomuslim usurper has turned one of our very own red-blooded loyal patriot Americans! Impeach, I say!

  22. illdoittomorrow:

    Oh, fer shit’s sake… blockquote fail. Someone remind me to use preview first…

    Modus, @1:

    “What would stop President Obama from appointing say Al Sharpton as attorney general or Rachel Maddow on the Supreme Court?” We are talking about the same Obama here, aren’t we? I mean, this is the guy who’s such an extreme Leftist he nominated a recent Republican Senator for SecDef.

    All that proves is that the pinkofascist athieomuslim usurper has turned one of our very own red-blooded loyal patriot Americans! Impeach, I say!

  23. jnorris:

    Sen Paul should thank whatever god would except him that Robert Byrd is dead. Sen Byrd would rip Paul a new one on the Senate floor for not knowing his history of the Senate.

  24. Trebuchet:

    Maddow would be a GREAT justice. Not being a lawyer is just a plus.

    Sharpton, not so much.

  25. thebookofdave:

    @jnorris #23

    Sure, but (to be fair to Rand Paul) the one thing he could count on if challenged by Robert Byrd on Senate history facts is that “Were you there?” was guaranteed to backfire.

  26. iangould:

    I think it’s unfair to assume Rand Paul ids an ignoramus when he might simply be a grifter telling the ignoramii what they want to hear.

  27. ahcuah:

    As are as I know, there is no actual requirement that either the Attorney General or any Supreme Court Justice must be an attorney.

  28. democommie:

    @26:

    I think it’s fair to call Paul an ignoramus, based on his lack of knowledge. That he’s also grifter and a ginormous racist, xenophobic, anti-woman prick is in no way dependent upon his willful (and it is, I’m sure, deliberate) ignorance of anything that does not further his agenda.

  29. d.c.wilson:

    “I think the leverage of using the filibuster to get information and to make the President obey the law,

    Even this half of his statement is weird, as there is nothing at all illegal about the president nominating an unqualified candidate for any office (Harriet Meyers?) or even someone Randy thinks is a “radical.” The Senate’s “advise and consent” role in the nomination process was meant to be a check on the president nominating someone grossly unqualified, but it’s not like it’s a crime for him to submit the name of his dog for AG if he wanted. Randy also appears to not understand the difference between “advise and consent” and the filibuster. Given that he’s been in the Senate for a couple of years now, this ignorance is inexcusable, even if he is just pandering to his teabagger constituency.

    Also, there really isn’t anything stopping Obama from nominating Rachel Maddow to the Supreme Court as the Constitution does not require that a justice be an attorney. It is doubtful, however, that someone with no legal experience whatsoever would get confirmed by the Senate, even if they weren’t considered a “radical” by rightwing extremists like Randy.

    What’s interesting is that Randy seems to take it as a given that Obama would recklessly appoint unqualified and “radical” appointees rather than the mostly middle-of-the-road and even, (in the case of Defense and Justice positions) fairly conservative appointees that he has named here on planet reality. But this is fantasy world the teabagger morons like Randy live in. They assume Obama is this caricature of a radical fascist socialist atheist Muslim that they’ve built up in their minds and rewrite reality to conform to this delusion.

  30. democommie:

    A question for the commenterrorists here:

    Will the fact that Roid Paul is getting so much ink and electrons so early in life help to make him a non-entity (except on the tip of the far-right curb feeler of the SKKKrotalMurKKKanPatriotiKKK KKKlownKKKar) in U.S. politics before he’s an 80 yo anti-hero* like his scumbag daddy?

    * Anti anything that doesn’t help him, personally.

  31. Donnie:

    You mean, nominate someone like Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court?????

  32. bornagainatheist:

    Isn’t he being disingenous (I know, big surprise), but as I heard it, nobody was trying to get rid of the filibuster for judges, simply appointments to Obama’s staff. I think the quote was something to the effect of “If you want to appoint the President’s staff, then you should have won the election.”

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