Senator Heidi Heitkamp Flip Flops on Judicial Filibusters

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., speaks during a hearing Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, regarding the role of Backpage.com and facilitating sex trafficking. Courtesy of Heitkamp's office

North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp likes to make a big to-do over being a pragmatic sort of elected leader with an eye towards cooperative governing and bipartisanship.

A cynic might say that carefully maintained facade is the work of a skilled politician who knows what sort of character she must play to get elected. And Heitkamp, the only Democrat elected on the statewide ballot in North Dakota since 2008, plays it well.

Usually. Sometimes some cracks show. Case in point, her utter hypocrisy when it comes to the judicial filibuster.

During her first campaign for the Senate in 2012 then-candidate Heitkamp railed against the filibuster.  On her still-active campaign website Heitkamp said there are “too many extreme politicians in Washington” who hold the country  “hostage to advance their narrow political agenda.”

It seems as though Heitkamp’s stance on the filibuster has far less to do with principle than it does partisan politics.

Then, during her first year in office in 2013, Heitkamp voted with the Democratic majority at the time to eliminate the judicial filibuster. Three Democratic lawmakers broke ranks with their party on the issue, but Heitkamp wasn’t one of them.

When Democrats lost their majority in the Senate, though, Heitkamp found an appreciation for the filibuster. She voted for a lot of them to obstruct Republican policies.

Fast forward to today, Republicans held a vote to nuke the filibuster rule to clear the path for President Donald Trump’s first appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Voting against the rule change to keep the filibuster in place? Senator Heidi Heitkamp. She has announced that she’s supporting Trump’s nominee, and she is voting that way so far, but she also voted to help Democrats keep the filibuster in place.

To be fair, Senator John Hoeven also flip flopped on judicial filibusters.  He voted against change the rules back in 2013, and voted for changing the rules today.

But the politics around Heitkamp’s flip-flop are a little different. Whereas Senator Hoeven’s political appeal in our state is built on the fact that he’s exactly the sort of moderate Republican most voters want, Heitkamp is playing at being a Democrat who governs like a moderate Republican.

Heitkamp told voters in 2012 that she was against the filibuster, and voted to end it when President Barack Obama was trying to push his judicial appointments through. But then when Republicans attained the majority she helped deploy filibusters to block their policy agenda, and now today voted against ending the filibuster for President Trump’s judicial appointment.

It seems as though Heitkamp’s stance on the filibuster has far less to do with principle than it does partisan politics.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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