Thursday, April 28, 2005


I've had it with the debate over the filibuster of judicial nominees. It's time Senator Frist & Co. do what needs to be done and change the Senate rules. A number of arguments have been made about why this would be a bad idea, but I'm not buying them.

You shouldn't abandon over 200 years of Senate tradition.
Two hundred years? Not quite. According to the Senate's own website, the first continuous filibuster took place in 1841. The cloture rule to end filibusters was adopted in 1917. A two thirds majority was needed to end debate (for those of you who may be mathematically challenged, that's sixty-seven votes). This rule was changed in 1975 - when the Dems ruled the Senate - so that sixty votes could end the filibuster. Why, you ask, did the Dems abandon "tradition" in 1975?
In 1975 the Senators changed the filibuster requirement from 67 votes to 60, after concluding that it only takes a simple majority of Senators to change the rules governing their proceedings. As Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) said at the time: "We cannot allow a minority" of the senators "to grab the Senate by the throat and hold it there." Senators Leahy, Kennedy, Byrd, and Biden, all agreed. Nearly a decade ago, Lloyd Cutler, the former White House Counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton, concluded that the Senate Rule requiring a super-majority vote to change the rule is "plainly unconstitutional."

There could be negative political fallout.
So? If doing the right thing was easy, everybody would do it. If you do the right thing you could lose your office, and we need you in office so you can do the right thing. Which you won't do, so as not to lose your office. Am I the only one who finds that "logic" asinine. If we're going to wind up with Democrat-style results anyway, why do we need Republicans in office? Make your case to the American people and then do what needs to be done. If you lose your next election, so be it. Victory belongs to the bold. There's no room for pussies in the winner's circle.

If we change the rules, the Dems will shut down the Senate.
Again, so? Let them. They saw that strategy backfire on Newt and the boys in the 90's. They'll have a tough time picking and choosing what to shut down and what to let through. Besides, Dems are even bigger pork addicts than Repubs, let 'em go cold turkey on pork for awhile and see how long they last. This threat is a lot like a child threatening to hold his breath if he doesn't get his own way. He might make good on the threat, but he can't hold his breath forever. The Dems will cave quickly enough without their snouts in the trough.

Dems will look to get even when they are in the majority again.
A strategy designed to cushion your defeat is a sure way to guarantee that defeat. Besides, what Republicans do now is irrelevant to how Dems will treat them in the future. First the GOP had the nerve to "sieze control" of the Congress in 1994, then they "stole" the election in 2000. The Dems have gone ballistic. The GOP has committed a mortal sin; they took power from them. There can be no atonement for this sin. No matter what Frist & Co. do, no quarter will be give to Republicans if the Dems ever get back in control of the Congress.

The filibuster is a good idea.
No, it's not. What is it? Unlimited debate? Thorough debate can be a good thing. Unlimited debate is a good way to avoid doing anything. Filibusters aren't usually used for debate anyway. They are used to stall action. And now they are being used to obstruct. The filibuster is a trick. The folks in power have enough tricks to thwart the will of the people. Let's chuck this one.

Trivia(from C-SPAN)
The term filibuster comes from the early 19th century Spanish and Portuguese pirates, "filibusteros", who held ships hostage for ransom (how appropriate).

Dick Morris wrote an excellent column today on this subject. His idea is to force the Dems to help make it easier to nuke the filibuster.
Frist just needs to end the “virtual” filibuster and make the Democrats stage a real one, replete with quorum calls, 24/7 sessions and truly endless debate covered word for word by C-SPAN for all the nation to see — and ridicule.

Frist should bring up a judicial nomination of little consequence for the nation — say Charles Pickering — and let the Democrats explain, at tedious length, why they are tying up the entire nation over a judgeship for Mississippi. While the public would possibly tolerate a filibuster over a Supreme Court nomination or over a particularly important piece of legislation with enormous consequence, they would never allow a filibuster over so inconsequential an item, and the backlash would be fierce.

To force the Democrats to filibuster over such a matter would be akin to the way President Clinton forced the Republicans to shut down the government in the budget fight. In the era of 24-hour news and cable TV, the Democrats will find that they cannot stage a real, red-blooded filibuster without hurting themselves politically each day they talk.

This is a great idea. I can just see FOX News playing video clips of Teddy Boy or Sheets Byrd reading from the phone book on the Senate floor. I hope Senator Frist read Morris' column.

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