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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Behind the Filibuster Flurry -- Review & Outlook, The Wall Street Journal

Why Democrats rushed to confirm nominees with 51 votes. 

Senate Democrats have wasted no time using their new power to do what they like with a simple majority of 51 votes. This week they're packing the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and they confirmed Congressman Mel Watt to run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The policy agenda behind their rush to gut the Senate filibuster for nominees is also becoming clearer.

In a 56-38 vote the Senate confirmed Washington lawyer Patricia Millett for the D.C. appeals court, giving Democratic appointees a 5-4 majority among active judges. On deck are Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins, whose confirmations will stock every empty seat on the Circuit, despite having the lightest workload in the country.

Democrats surprised Republicans in November with how quickly they dismantled the filibuster, and we are beginning to see why. Another major challenge to ObamaCare is being heard by a D.C. Circuit district judge, this time concerning whether subsidies can be delivered by the federal exchanges. Then there's the new IRS proposed rule curtailing the political speech of 501(c)(4) groups. This rule will also probably make its way to the D.C. Circuit, and blocking GOP-leaning groups from politicking is part of the Democratic strategy for holding the Senate in 2014.

Democrats figure they have a better chance to win if they have more nominees on the appeals court—either in a three-judge panel or en banc. The plaintiffs could appeal to the Supreme Court if they lose, but you never know if the Justices will take a case.

Democrats also confirmed Mr. Watt, and he too will go to work helping to re-elect Democrats. Look for him to require Fannie and Freddie to finance a new affordable-housing trust fund that will dispense cash to liberal constituencies. Over time this fund could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

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