Obama Defends Senate's Nuclear Option Now, But Not in 2005

By Melanie Arter | November 21, 2013 | 3:28pm EST

President Barack Obama (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) – Blaming what he called an “unprecedented pattern of obstruction in Congress,” President Barack Obama on Thursday said he supports Senate Democrats who voted to overturn filibuster rules on most presidential appointees. That's a complete reversal of his position in 2005, when he argued against ending the filibuster.

Speaking on Thursday, Obama said, “All too often, we’ve seen a single senator or a handful of senators choose to abuse arcane procedural tactics to unilaterally block bipartisan compromises or to prevent well-qualified patriotic Americans from filling critical positions of public service in our system of government.

“It’s brought us to the point where a simple majority vote no longer seems to be sufficient for anything, even routine business through what is supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Obama said.

The president acknowledged that “neither party has been blameless for these tactics” which have developed over the years, but “today’s pattern of obstruction, it just isn’t normal.”

“It’s not what our founders envisioned – a deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything no matter what the merits just to re-fight the results of an election is not normal, and for the sake of future generations, we can’t let it become normal,” he added.

But eight years ago, in April 2005, President Obama warned against doing exactly what he supports now. Here's some of what he said then:

The American people sent us here to be their voice, then-Senator Obama said in a floor speech. "They understand that those voices can at times become loud and argumentative, but they also hope that we can disagree without being disagreeable...

What they don't expect is for one party, be it Republican or Democrat, to change the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet. The American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster, if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.

Now I understand that Republicans are getting a lot of pressure to do this from factions outside the chamber. But we need to rise above the ends-justifies-the-means mentality, because we're here to answer to the people, all of the people, not just the ones that are wearing our particular party label...

If the right of free and open debate is taken away from the minority party and the millions of Americans who ask us to be their voice, I fear that the already partisan atmosphere will be poisoned to the point where no one will be able to agree on anything. That doesn't serve anyone's best interests and it certainly isn't what the patriots who founded this democracy had in mind...

On Thursday, Obama said that in the 60 years before he took office, only 20 presidential nominees to executive positions had to overcome filibusters, while nearly 30 have been filibustered in the five years since he took office.

Obama also complained it took nearly two and a half times longer for his judicial nominees to receive up or down votes on the Senate floor as those of President George W. Bush. Also, four of Bush’s six nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia – the nation’s second highest court – were confirmed, while four out of Obama’s five nominees to the same court “have been obstructed,” he said.

“So the vote today I think is an indication that a majority of senators believe as I believe that enough is enough,” he added.

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