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Don Berwick And The Rules Of the Game

The recess appointment of Donald Berwick to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has provoked the expected Republican procedural outrage (see here and here.) Some liberals have been chuckling at this response from Pat Roberts:

This recess appointment proves the Obama Administration did not have the support of a majority of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and sought to evade a hearing.

Of course, Republicans have no intention of letting Berwick be confirmed with a mere majority vote. But the filibuster has become so routine that Roberts forgot it was even being employed, which is why Roberts invoked a "majority" when he clearly meant "supermajority." In other words, Roberts is simply taking his party's pushing the rules to the limit as an unchallenged part of the landscape and decrying the opposition for responding in kind.

The best Republican defense of filibustering everything is: the rules are the rules. If the rules say you can filibuster whenever you want, then there's no reason not to filibuster every single thing. And that's fine. Likewise, the rules also say the administration can appoint officials to the executive branch without Congressional approval during a recess.

If you're going to push the rules as far as they can go, you can hardly complain when the other party does the same thing. If Republicans think recess appointments are an abuse, they need to push to change the rules governing them. Same with the filibuster.