Saturday, July 20, 2013

Republicans Less About Filibuster, more about Nullification!

This great article in The Atlantic by James Fallows hits the mark on filibusters and nullification. Heck, it didn't even occur to me until Fellows wrote about what is basically an observation by one of his readers. Check out all the great links he provides as well:
Not a Filibuster Problem, a Nullification Problem: I mentioned last night, just before a surreal immersion in Sharknado, some of the reasons to be concerned about a governance system many of whose members are uninterested in or actively hostile to the very idea of governance. 

Back to nullification. A reader says that I've missed the point of the latest Congressional standoff:
I actually think "filibuster disaster" is the wrong way of thinking of it.  We don't have a filibuster problem.  We have a nullification problem.  Abuse of the filibuster is just one aspect of it, and one of several tactics. Mass filibuster of presidential nominees to head organizations like the CFPB, NLRB, etc., isn't just an abuse of a tactic.  It's a nullification of federal law.  What's really breathtaking about it isn't the number of filibusters, but the fact that they've dropped all pretense of objecting to the nominees themselves: they say explicitly that they are blocking these nominees because they don't like the laws they would enforce.  

They don't think the CFPB or the NLRB should exist.  They don't have the votes (which is to say, the democratic legitimacy) to make their existence no longer the law of the land, so they nullify those laws by other means.

They do the same thing in the House by simply refusing to fund what they don't like.  They can't get the laws off the books, so they nullify them by other means.  It's a mass deployment of Andrew Jackson's famous reaction to the Supreme Court: some previous congress passed this law, now let them fund it.

GOP-controlled state governments, of course, are nullifying things left and right, or trying to. That's what nullification has historically been: nullification of federal law by the states.  What's new here is that, in essence, the federal government is nullifying itself.  You can even be more specific than that: it's the Congress nullifying itself.

It's bizarre and, to be honest, terrifying... 
For more on modern nullification, see this and this from yesterday's Wonkblog, this from Greg Sargent, and these items (firstsecondthird) from the past year. Or this Ur-statement from John C. Calhoun.

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