As Otto von Bismarck pointed out nearly a century and a half ago, “Politics is the art of the possible.”
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., didn’t cite that maxim — or that 19th century Prussian statesman who became Germany’s first chancellor — this week.
But they did demonstrate the adage anew by crafting a compromise to avert the “nuclear option” threatened by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The Nevada Democrat had warned that if Republicans didn’t stop blocking President Barack Obama’s appointments, he would use his legislative power to eliminate their filibuster option.
That maneuver would have allowed the Senate to confirm those nominees with a simple majority of 51 votes instead of the 60 needed to avert the filibuster threat.
However, thanks to the deal worked out by Sens. McCain and Schumer, the Senate will clear the way for up to seven of the president’s stalled appointees while preserving filibuster alternative (see Paul Greenberg’s column on today’s Commentary page).
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was part of Sen. McCain’s negotiating team. And in the final deal, President Barack Obama agreed to replace two controversial National Labor Relations Board appointees with two nominees more acceptable to the GOP.
President Obama, though recess appointments that didn’t require Senate confirmation, has stacked the NLRB deck strongly in favor of unions.
Lafe Solomon, the president’s recess appointment as NLRB general counsel, even charged that Boeing officials unlawfully “intimidated” a union in Washington state by stating this obvious motive for their 2009 decision to build a 787 Dreamliner plant in North Charleston: South Carolina could provide a non-union workforce.
That suit was subsequently settled, and Boeing is here to stay.
And by crafting the compromise on Tuesday, the Senate proved that federal lawmakers can still meet in the reasonable middle.
So now can senators in both parties — and journalists — please agree to drop that doomsday-sounding “nuclear option” term?