Feb 1, 2016 (WASHINGTON) So the Senate committees approved Tom Price for health and Human Services (HHS) and Steve Minchin for Commerce. This advances both nominations to the full Senate where they will surely be confirmed.
What happened? It is not that the Republicans broke the rules, they just used a rare maneuver, usually saved for emergencies. The boycott of committee hearings is not an emergency, however.
The questions Democrats had were twofold. Mnunchin is known as the King of foreclosures for a reason. He greatly profited from that housing crisis 2008. Price was accused of insider trading. So Senators asking questions was doing their job. Republicans are complaining of this as being an obstruction from Democrats, after eight years of doing that, is what is pathetic, and sad.
However, this proves why Democrats are not effective as the opposition. While they try to still play by the once stated rules, these rules are being used against them. The idea that at least one member of the opposition had to be present at the committee was more of a tradition than a steadfast rule. No, what Chairman Orrin Hatch did, suspending the regular order, is not against the rules. It is in the overall running of the Senate.
What is about to happen, under the encouragement of the White House, is the invocation of the Nuclear Option if Democrats decide to use another tradition, and filibuster a Supreme Court nominee. This will establish one party rule and will make Democrats a decoration at the Capitol.
Neil Gorsuch is a judge in the mold of Antonin Scalia, but most importantly, some Democrats, such as Senator Jeff Markin of Oregon have referred to his nomination as stolen. Senate Republicans refused to consider Judge Merrick Garland, using the same rules they are about to throw with the bath water.
Senator Sherrod Brown statement on Judge Gorsuch implies that he is still thinking we are working under some kind of established tradition.
Here is where Democrats will have to finally realize that they are not dealing with any regular order. Republicans have been fighting a guerrilla campaign for years, while Democrats are fixed with how you used to do things and tradition. As much as they still put out press announcements and try to use the rules, the earthquake will continue to shift under their feet. This is part of the shock event we are living through as well.
There is more. The heart of what was once the Democratic Party is in the streets. There is resistance and out of that street scene we will see the emergence of a new generation of leaders. One that will not be playing by the same old rules. The question is whether we have time for that process.