We Have Always Been At War With Reality

War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. Orrin Hatch is sane.

A majority of the Senate today voted to confirm Craig Becker, President Obama’s nominee to chair the NLRB, but they only won 52 to 33, so the motion was tabled.

Senator Orrin Hatch called on Obama not to use a recess appointment, saying that in light of the vote, such a move would “circumvent the will of the Senate.”

In other news, Hatch declared that War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.

He also called on Justice Clarence Thomas to resign pending another confirmation vote.

The Senate recesses in a few days.  President Obama, this is a test.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

21 thoughts on “We Have Always Been At War With Reality”

  1. This is insane. If I walked down the street here in LA, I wonder how many people would accept if I offered to punch them in the face for free? This is why we can't have nice things.

  2. Nah, I'm pretty sure they held a vote on whether or not to hold a vote. If cloture votes were votes on whether to confirm a nominee, an awful lot of nominees the Democratic party opposed would have been seated over the last decade or two.

  3. Obama should use his recess appointment power, but it is regrettable that he must use it, because it represents yet another sickness of our political system. The power was put in the Constitution by the framers for emergencies, when it took a long time to travel by horse and buggy to the capital in Philadelphia. It is now archaic, yet it has been widely abused, at least since the Reagan administration, to appoint people, such as John Bolton, who could not get through the Senate even without filibusters or holds. In the 1980s, Reagan wanted to destroy the Legal Services Corporation, which distributes federal funds to local legal aid organizations to represent the poor in civil matters. The Corporation has a board of about a dozen members, and Reagan nominated only people whose mission was to destroy the agency for which they would work. They could not get through the Senate, so, once a year, Reagan would appoint the entire board by recess appointment. (Even so, he was unable to destroy the Corporation.)

  4. In a sense it is the will of the senate to be a dysfunctional body; these are the rules they adopted. But at the time, who could have known that the GOP would fly airplanes into — oops, be so vigorously dedicated to the destruction of the body politic?

  5. Henry says:

    "Obama should use his recess appointment power, but it is regrettable that he must use it, because it represents yet another sickness of our political system."

    Yes, it is, but that does not excuse unwillingness to use it. It was clear to me back in 2008 what the rules were for any Democratic president; Obama has wasted a lot of time and energy having to learn those rules – at best; it's still likely that he doesn't understand them, and will have a boggy administration.

    "The power was put in the Constitution by the framers for emergencies, when it took a long time to travel by horse and buggy to the capital in Philadelphia. It is now archaic, yet it has been widely abused, at least since the Reagan administration, to appoint people, such as John Bolton, who could not get through the Senate even without filibusters or holds."

    Is there any evidence that the framers of the Constitution ever expected it to be routine for one senator to hold up business at will, with no effort, and no cost to himself?

  6. @ Brett

    Nah, I’m pretty sure they held a vote on whether or not to hold a vote. If cloture votes were votes on whether to confirm a nominee, an awful lot of nominees the Democratic party opposed would have been seated over the last decade or two.

    Cite, please?

    The Democratic minority in the Senate wanted to block some of Bush's most extreme appointments to lifetime appointments on the bench, from where they could unaccountably perpetuate their theories on their fellow citizens for decades. This was denounced as undemocratic and as threatening a Constitutional Crisis, and after a long contretemps the so-called "Gang Of 14" compromised on allowing only a handful of the most extreme nominees for the most senior positions to be filibustered.

    Other than that, I can think of only a couple of cases where people appointed by Bush to administration or term-limited positions were filibustered: Bush's UN ambassador John Bolton, a raving lunatic who had fantasized of bombing the UN building and is fundamentally opposed to negotiation and international cooperation; and Hans Spakovsky, a Bush appointee to the FEC whose lifetime work has been to limit poll access for the poor, minorities, and generally people unlikely to vote for his political patrons. Both were exceptional cases.

    Meanwhile, the purpose of the Labor Relations Board is precisely to get input both from industry and labor representatives, and while Becker's critics don't like the fact that he's close to organized labor I'm not aware of even allegations that he's some wild-eyed extremist comparable to Bolton or Spakovsky.

    So I don't believe that "an awful lot" of appointees were blocked by Democrats, and I don't believe that this case is remotely comparable to the rare blockages that did happen.

    Next talking points, please?

  7. The Republicans are advocating for their positions using the rules as they are writen. Would that the Democrats had done as much in the past and were doing as much in the present.

    Mr. President, Senators and Representatives: Please stop thinking about kicking their asses and commence kicking, in every possible way. The voters will love you for it.

  8. Um, Brennan, that it was a cloture motion had not escaped anyone's notice. Except, perhaps, yours on first reading. The whole point of the post was that, through routine filibustering of noncontroversial legislation and appointees, a new 60-vote standard is being applied that was not applied in the past.

  9. Apparently, to achieve cloture, it requires 60% of the whole body? After all, the R's didn't muster 40 votes to block cloture, and the D's rallied over 60% (to wit, 61.2%) of those voting. On the other hand, Warren, Brennan is right, imho, that Jonathan's statement that "A majority of the Senate today voted to confirm Craig Becker, … but they only won 52 to 33 …." was inaccurate, if not tendentious, and not in keeping with the First Principle of this blog.

  10. Peter G, to see just how slanted the filibuster rules are against cloture, I recommend Hilzoy's classic "Filibusters Again" post at obsidianwings.blogs.com.

    I can't link (phone); you can Google it.

  11. Mr. Zasloff:

    I am sure that all of the Dems who voted for cloture would also be happy to confirm him if that was up for a vote. But that truth is perfectly irrelevant to the factual correctness of your post because you wrote that "A majority of the Senate today voted to confirm Craig Becker …." Though your post is understandable as an implied criticism of the 60 vote requirement for cloture as applied to confirmations — a requirement I do not approve of — your statement seems indisputably factually incorrect because you elided the difference between the procedural cloture vote and the vote on the actual confirmation. Why is this difficult to acknowledge? (Or, of course, if I am wrong as a matter of parliamentary procedure, why can't this be explained?)

    You could claim, with perfect truth, that I am being nitpicky here. But isn't that entirely appropriate on this blog, ostensibly dedicated to the idea that no one is entitled to twist or misrepresent the facts to make easier their policy argument?

    Finally, what does "try clapping harder" mean? (Really. I understand that it is probably an insult, but I am not familiar with the expression.)

  12. Unless you want unscheduled votes of 51 Senators passing massively unpopular bills, and confirming massively unpopular nominees, on 26/25 votes, yes, cloture really does need to be 60% of the entire body, not just those present.

    But if you really want President Ryann to have 26 Senators confirm John Woo to the Supreme court in 2013, go ahead and change that.

  13. Whatever, the point remains: Without it being 60% of the entire Senate, any time there were 51 Senators present, 31 of them could ram through things 59% of the Senate was starkly opposed to.

  14. Without it being 60% of the entire Senate, any time there were 51 Senators present, 31 of them could ram through things 59% of the Senate was starkly opposed to.

    Not the best argument, Brett. Right now one Senator out of 60 present can block things 59 strongly favor. Is that better?

    Also, there are fairly simple procedures, like requiring notification of votes, that would help prevent this.

  15. Brett, how many Senators would vote for a "massively unpopular" bill? The filibuster is a tool by which Senators avoid having to vote ON bills, generally because those bills ARE popular. Nobody, Democrat or Republican, would bother to filibuster a truly UNpopular bill. A majority of them might vote for a bill that YOU oppose, but that's not the issue.

    As for "unscheduled votes", I've never heard of the Senate holding any. Votes are scheduled ahead of time, and those Senators who oppose a "massively unpopular" bill would make it their business to show up. It's what their constituents pay them for.

    –TP

  16. "Not the best argument, Brett. Right now one Senator out of 60 present can block things 59 strongly favor. Is that better?"

    Yes, much better.

    "As for “unscheduled votes”, I’ve never heard of the Senate holding any."

    Because there's not much point in holding a cloture vote without warning, if the fact that you've got less than all the Senators present doesn't make it any easier to pass.

    And you really think that you can't get 31 Senators to vote for a bill that's more unpopular than you could get 61 Senators to vote for?

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