ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Yesterday, we heard here from Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, a longtime advocate of changing the filibuster rules. Today, Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. Welcome to the program, Senator.
SENATOR ROGER WICKER: Glad to be with you.
SIEGEL: The Democrats say that you and other Senate Republicans have taken to filibustering the kind of federal nominations that have historically been routine. Practice was abused. Rule had to be changed. Why are they wrong?
WICKER: You know, we came to a crisis mid-July on this very subject. We thought we had an agreement. Since that time, the Senate has confirmed 147 judicial and executive nominations and turned down only four. So it seems to me that our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle have misinterpreted our agreement to mean that we would confirm 100 percent of the nominations, and that was never part of the deal.
SIEGEL: But you don't think that by blocking three straight nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals that Senate Republicans, first of all, showed that this wasn't about some individual issue raised by each of these nominees, whoever was going to be nominated to the court was going to be blocked? You don't think you overplayed your hand on that one?
WICKER: Well, I don't think so. And here's one reason. This is exactly the same position the Democrats took about the D.C. Court of Appeals back when Republicans had the majority and the presidency. They filibustered nominees and prevented nominees through various parliamentary devices for the very same reason. And it does turn out that the D.C. Court of Appeals has less business than most others.
SIEGEL: Although I've heard it argued that given that the U.S. Court of Appeals hears all the cases rising out of complex regulatory issues in Washington that the number of cases is not a measure of how complex the work is and how burdensome it is.
I think it's been correctly stated at different times by both parties that the workload is far less in the D.C. Circuit.
How do you answer the argument that whoever is saying what today, the way the United States Senate has come to function or not function today changes the argument, the Senate is not a body that is functioning according to rules of courteous respect for the other side?
WICKER: I agree that the Senate is dysfunctional. Where the Senate is dysfunctional is the complete objection that this majority has to allowing regular order. And that comes in passing bills. Robert, we've had bill dealing with our national defense on the floor now for over a week. And so far, the majority leader has allowed votes on two amendments. And this happens time and time again, whether it's immigration or other very important issues. That's the dysfunction.
SIEGEL: Let me ask you about the change today, about the filibuster of judicial and executive branch nominees, excluding the Supreme Court. If indeed Republicans really see some inherent parliamentary virtue to requiring 60 votes to cut off debate as opposed to, at this time, partisan self-interest, when you get the majority you can restore the old rule. You could say, now that we're the majority, we want the minority to be able to hold up debate unless 60 votes are there to cut off. Does anyone honestly believe that would happen?
WICKER: I don't know what would happen, but I do believe the Republicans will have the majority after the 2014 elections. Robert, let me tell you what this is really about...
SIEGEL: But - no. But if you think the order that was done away with today is really better, why not restore it then when you get the majority?
WICKER: Well, it may very well be. But what has been done today is something that's been considered by Republican and Democrat majorities in the past. And always, when we got to the brink, we were able to come to some agreement not to do this. But this really does remind me of the way Obamacare was passed. All the votes for it came from Democrats. And to me, it speaks of a tyranny of the majority that really even goes beyond this one issue of confirmations.
SIEGEL: Senator Roger Wicker, thank you very much for talking with us once again.
WICKER: Glad to be with you.
SIEGEL: That's U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.