I've griped early and often about mainstream reporters who have enabled the obstructionist abuse of the Senate's right-to-filibuster in recent years. Every story saying that a bill or nomination "failed" because it didn't get the "60 votes needed for passage," rather than saying that a measure was "blocked" or "filibustered" or "prevented from coming to a vote," reinforces the conversion of the Senate into something it was never intended to be: a tyranny-of-the-minority body.
So naturally I was impressed by the way an All Things Considered report began a few hours ago. It concerned the Senate Republicans' refusal to consider the nominations of a number of district-court judges. Here's the transcript from NPR* (audio also at that link), with emphasis added:
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
In the Senate, a showdown may be in store tomorrow. Senate Democrats accuse Republicans of using filibusters to stall 17 nominees for federal district court. Now, in a bid to end the delays, senators will begin voting on whether or not to sustain those filibusters.
Republicans say it's an election year ploy by Democrats to manufacture a crisis. Democrats say, enough, there's no reason for the Senate to delay the nominees any longer. NPR's David Welna has the story from the capital.
DAVID WELNA: More than 10 percent of the seats on the nation's federal district courts are currently vacant. It's the Senate's job to review and confirm President Obama's nominees to fill those seats. Seventeen of those nominees have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, most of them unanimously, and seven of them have been endorsed by their home state Republican senators. Seven are nominated to courts whose vacancies have been designated judicial emergencies, yet most of them have been waiting for months to be confirmed by the full Senate because Republicans won't agree to let them come up for a vote.
The point here is not Republican/Democratic, although as a baseline fact it is the Republican minority that has dramatically ramped up use of the filibuster since they lost control of the Senate in the 2006 midterms. The Democrats used a filibuster of their own last week, and we'll see what they do when they're back in the minority. The real significance of this brief report is that it shows what journalists can do when they are willing to call a thing by its real name.