John Bryson Filibuster: Just Because
44 Republican Senators have already pledged to filibuster John Bryson's nomination as Commerce secretary.
President Obama with Commerce Secretary designee John Bryson at the White House on Tuesday.
President Obama nominated a noted utility executive, John Bryson, to be the next Commerce secretary on Tuesday, noting his “decades of experience” promoting clean energy, but Republican senators have vowed to block the nomination until the president submits a trio of trade pacts for ratification.
While Bryson’s record is unlikely to stir opposition, 44 Republican senators have vowed to block the nomination of a Commerce secretary—or any trade-related post—until Obama submits for ratification trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. That’s more than enough votes to sustain a filibuster should Senate Republicans choose to go that route. The White House has declined to submit the treaties without reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance, an expired program to retrain workers displaced by such deals, leading to what appears to be a standoff.
“Until the President submits [the trade] agreements to Congress for approval and commits to signing implementing legislation into law, we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce Secretary and any trade-related nominees,” the GOP senators said in a March 14 letter.
Now, I’m not sure I’d heard of John Bryson before this afternoon and don’t care one whit whether he gets to become Commerce secretary. For that matter, I’m not absolutely sure we need a Department of Commerce. But, seriously, this is just weak.
The filibuster is an extraconstitutional tool but it’s one that, properly used, can further the aims of the Framers in making it hard for slim, temporary majorities to ram through genuninely controversial measures. As a general rule, I don’t think it’s reasonable to use it at all on confirmations, especially of members of a president’s cabinet, since the Constitution is clear on how many votes it takes to confirm a nominee–a bare majority–and this sidesteps it. But, at very least, it ought to be done over a principled objection to the nominee himself rather than to secure leverage over some tangentially related matter.