At noon, most Democratic senators, three Republican senators, and half a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus watched Cory Booker get sworn in as the new senator from New Jersey. Dozens of reporters trailed the fourth elected black senator as he and his family walked the halls, slapped backs, and spent an inordinate amount of time listening to Joe Biden’s banter in the Old Senate Chamber. (It’s not like they had a choice.)
While that was happening, the Senate Republicans filibustered some Obama nominees. Rep. Mel Watt, a North Carolina congressman* nominated to run the Federal Housing Agency, got only one Republican vote for cloture—after the Club for Growth had key-voted “no” on his bid. Two Republicans voted to advance the nomination of Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit, despite no one coming up with a policy/philosophy-based reason to oppose her. They want to reduce the number of seats on the circuit; this was a proxy vote on that demand.
The Booker celebration went on. A reporter asked Biden whether the Senate needed rules reform. “I think it’s worth considering,” he said. Democrats heading into a caucus meeting started putting out new arguments for rules reform, which they had tried to settle for this session months ago.
“This is a war on the other two branches of government and their ability to do the jobs the American people need them to do,” said Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, the party’s lead crusader for rules reform. The Senate rules must change.”
*Watt’s also an African-American, so if you want to spot an irony in the Senate celebrating the arrival of a black member then watching a black congressman get filibustered, go ahead.