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Cornyn Declares Obama, Not Bush, Nominees Require 60 Votes

February 14, 2013

As things now stand, Senate Republicans will carry through on their threat to filibuster Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense. As the GOP's number two man John Cornyn declared Wednesday, "There is a 60-vote threshold for every nomination." Two votes short of the needed filibuster-breaking tally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the GOP's obstructionism "a shame." But it's much more than a shame; the Republican effort to block a Cabinet choice from even getting a vote is "either unknown or exceedingly rare." We know this not just from the historical record, but because John Cornyn himself told us that George W. Bush's nominees like Attorney General Michael Mukasey deserved "an immediate up-or-down vote by the full Senate" because "It is imperative that the President has his national security team at full strength."
Cornyn, himself a former Texas state supreme court chief justice, was among the principal purveyors of the GOP's now-abandoned talking point that all judicial selections must receive an "up-or-down vote." (As of June 2011, President Obama's choices for the federal bench were confirmed at by far the lowest rate since Jimmy Carter.) Yet in November 2003, Cornyn was apoplectic that four (!) of 172 Bush nominees had been filibustered by Senate Democrats:

This is not politics as usual; it is politics at its worst.
After all, it is wrong for a partisan minority of senators to treat good people like statistics; wrong to mistreat distinguished jurists with unprecedented filibusters and unconscionable character attacks; wrong to hijack the Constitution and seize control of the judicial-confirmation process from the president and a bipartisan majority of the Senate; wrong to deny up-or-down votes to judicial nominees simply because a partisan minority of senators cannot persuade the bipartisan majority to vote against a nominee; and wrong not to play fair, follow tradition, and allow a vote. Once is bad enough, and four unconstitutional filibusters is four too many.

But Senator Cornyn's denunciation of the filibuster almost never deployed by his Democratic colleagues extended to President Bush cabinet appointees as well.
In the fall of 2007, Michael Mukasey's nomination to replace Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General ran into some speed bumps in the Democratic-controlled Senate. During the confirmation process, Mukasey refused to say whether waterboarding constituted torture and brushed off Senators questions as "hypothetical." On November 6, 2007, John Cornyn issued a blistering statement attacking Senate Democrats:

This position is critical for our continued prosecution of the war on terror. Judge Mukasey's bipartisan support is a recognition that he is the right man for this job and will do what is needed to protect America's national security...It is imperative that the President has his national security team at full strength and the unnecessary delay of Judge Mukasey's nomination has prevented that. He deserves an immediate up-or-down vote by the full Senate.

Of course, an up-or-down vote is exactly what Mukasey got. As Reuters reported that same day, "On an 11-8 vote, with two Democrats joining all nine Republicans, the committee sent President George W. Bush's nomination of Mukasey to the full Democratic-led Senate for confirmation, which is virtually assured." Two days later, that Democratic Senate voted to confirm Mukasey by a 53 to 40 margin. Ironically, among the Senators who did not vote that day was one named John Cornyn.
As it turns out, the ironies for John Cornyn and his Republican allies don't end there. In January 2009, President Obama's selection to replace AG Mukasey was Eric Holder. After he firmly declared "waterboarding is torture" during testimony to the Judiciary Committee, Cornyn threatened to block Holder's nomination unless he promised not to investigate those who authorized and administered it.
After the Senate GOP's initial effort to derail Holder's bid over Bill Clinton's pardon of Mark Rich (a man then represented by attorney Scooter Libby, whose later Plamegate commutation by President Bush Cornyn supported), Cornyn turned to the torture issue. Just days after confronting Holder with a nonsensical hypothetical lauding waterboarding, Cornyn the torture advocate rushed to the defense of its practitioners during the Bush administration:

"It could well be there will be a request to delay the markup for a week so those questions can be asked and answered. Part of my concern relates to his statements at the hearing with regard to torture and what his intentions are toward our intelligence personnel who were operating in good faith based on their understanding of what the law was."

In both cases, John Cornyn ultimately got what he wanted. Mukasey got his up-or-down vote and the Obama administration didn't prosecute any of the architects or implementers of President Bush's regime of detainee torture. Now, it's Chuck Hagel who deserves the up-or-down vote Cornyn once demanded. But with a Democrat in the White House, Senator Cornyn and his Republican allies are apparently suffering from a bad case of amnesia.

One comment on “Cornyn Declares Obama, Not Bush, Nominees Require 60 Votes”

  1. It seems pretty clear that the Bush Mafia is trying and succeeding in weakening Americans defenses in hopes that there will be another 911 during the Obama administration.
    How else can they, internally, excuse their actions.
    They are using the US civilians as a tethered goat to attract the tiger, but without the end purpose of killing the tiger.
    They are that desperate to rehabilitate the Bush Mafia's legacy and that determined to create another act of chaos for them use to grab power.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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