Not a surprise, but both charges are true. However, a commenter (somewhere on the internet--it's not important where) suggested that it started with Harry Reid stopping amendments and other votes. If this is true, then Reid is responsible for a lot of dysfunction, in fact a cascade of dysfunction. So I decided to check this out.
It was quite hard to do. The accusation hasn't been generally raised and examined, so I didn't find a convenient summary of the issue. Instead, I found lots of tit-for-tat fighting. So here it is.
Yes, Harry Reid filled up the amendment lists on most or all bills. This pissed off the Republicans, who wanted to offer amendments that put Democratic senators on the spot. The GOP didn't get to do this, but they still managed to defeat lots of these senators in the midterm elections just last week. So, if we identify the goals, they are something like this:
- GOP goal: Make Dem senators take embarrassing votes.
- Dem goal: Protect Dem senators from embarrassing votes.
The Dem senators threatened many time to end the filibuster on appointments (except Supreme Court nominees). The GOP backed down several times, then returned to the practice, and finally the Dems went nuclear and ended the rule that allowed the GOP to filibuster. In most of this, there wasn't public discussion/negotiation of what Harry Reid was doing with amendments. The usual GOP stance was that they had every right to exercise oversight of appointments, and they were making sure that inappropriate people weren't being appointed. This excuse was generally bullshit, and was understood this way at the time. To summarize:
- GOP goals: Block the administration personnel and appointed judges. Revenge on Reid for when he blocked Bush nominees.
- Dem goal: End the blockage, end the filibuster if necessary.
Tons of Extras. I checked a lot of conservative sources to read their rationale for the blockade of appointments. That explains the imbalance below.
- The Dems have brought the law of the jungle to the Senate. When the GOP gets control, they should use it to the max.
- Mark Levin against the blockade of judicial nominees, circa 2003: "Nowhere in the Constitution, in the Federalist Papers or in any contemporary writings during the Constitutional Convention or the ratifying conventions can the Senate Democrats find support for their use of the filibuster to block judicial appointments."
- Weekly Standard against it too.
- Yeah, it's revenge for Dems blocking Bush's judicial nominees.
- The next set of obstruction tactics after the nuclear option was exercised.
- Recent: Keep the nuclear option on judicial appointments. It's more in keeping with tradition anyway.
- The GOP gives blatantly bogus reasons for their actions.
- One of the failed deals.
- The same old argument that nominees aren't qualified.
- Reactions to the Dems going nuclear. Republican apoplexy: You're going to regret this.
- Well-paced history of senators behaving badly for decades, tracing escalation through Frist and Reid. Discussion of the amazing number of maneuvers that can be abused. Blocking amendments--they both did it. Breaking agreements, ditto. I especially enjoyed pages 12-19.
- How that amendment-blocking maneuver works.
- Post-nuclear, but still blocked.