When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic majority blew up two centuries of Senate practice by repealing the filibuster on most presidential nominees, they killed a key procedural protection for the rights of minorities.
Whereas before 60 votes were required to end debate on a nominee, now only a simply majority of 51 senators can silence opponents and force a final vote for or against confirmation.
The 60-vote threshold forced supporters and opponents of a nomination to temper their views, thus encouraging reasonable compromise rather than straight-up all-or-nothing votes that can enable a majority to tyrannize a minority. That's the theory anyway.
Here's the first example
Late last week, Senate Democrats confirmed Cornelia Pillard to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. "That makes two additional Obama nominees on the court with the lightest workload, and it gives leftists a 6-4 advantage on the court that hears most challenges to executive actions," according to the Patriot Post.
Pillard, a tenured Georgetown University law professor, is a former Clinton administration Department of Justice political appointee. She is, according to National Review Online's Patrick Brennan, "probably the most extreme of President Obama's" many federal judicial nominees.
How extreme is she?
In 2011, Pillard said of a case then before the Supreme Court that the idea that "the Constitution requires deference to Church decisions about who qualifies as a minister ... seems like a real stretch."
The Supremes unanimously disagreed with Pillard and affirmed that the government has no power to tell churches who they can and cannot hire as ministers.
If Pillard's view prevailed, there would be no such thing as separation of church and state, nor would the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom be anything other than mere words.
Pillard now has power
Pillard is now part of a liberal majority of the appeals court with the most influence on what is commonly referred to as the second most important court in the country.
This comes at a time when, as today's Washington Examiner editorial points out, liberals are assaulting the traditional understanding of religious freedom on many fronts.
Sooner or later, Pillard's panel will have to decide a case whose outcome could determine which side wins the liberal war on the First Amendment.
On today's washingtonexaminer.com
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