Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to have convinced many Americans that in terms of what he and President Barack Obama want, it's either their way or gridlock. But senators representing West Virginia and Ohio know better.
Frustrated by objective, constitutionally based rulings from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Obama wants to pack the court with appointees who will allow him to proceed with his job-killing regulatory agenda. Especially dear to Obama's heart is his plan to shut down hundreds of coal-fired electricity generating units, forcing up the price of power for tens of millions of Americans.
Decisions by the D.C. appeals court are critical because many cases involving federal regulations are argued there.
From a purely political standpoint, the court is reasonably well balanced now. Four of its judges were appointed by Republican presidents, four by Democrats. But there are three vacancies on the court, and Obama wants to appoint judges he thinks will allow him to continue with his power grab.
But the Senate must approve Obama's nominees for federal judgeships - and some lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, are concerned about the ramifications of giving the president virtually free rein on what some see as the second most important judicial panel in the land, behind the Supreme Court.
Reid, D-Nev., has vowed to use every trick at his disposal to give Obama what he wants. In a pitch for public approval, Reid claimed this week that, "The nation is watching for a sign that the Senate can function efficiently."
His definition of functioning efficiently is to act as a rubber stamp for anything he and the president want, of course. That never was the vision of the nation's founders. They specifically saw the Senate and House of Representatives as checks on power-hungry presidents. Federal judges also were viewed as critical parts of the checks and balances system.
If they allow Obama and Reid to stack the D.C. Appeals court with friends of big government, senators will do more than grant the White House more power. They also will diminish greatly their own ability to decide policy.
Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, should not allow it. They should join the group of senators determined to block Obama's nominees. Obama and Reid are out for no less than weighting the scales of justice in their favor - and that is not acceptable.