Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Conservative Duplicity and the Nuclear Option

There is a really informative editorial about the GOP's nuclear option to end Senate filibusters of Presidential nominees to federal courts in today's New York Times.

Some good excerpts:
"Senator Smith embodied independence and understood the Senate's singular place in our system of checks and balances. Our founders created that system to prevent abuse of power and to protect our rights and freedoms. The president's veto power is a check on Congress. The Senate's power to confirm or reject judicial nominees balances the president's authority to nominate them. The proposal by some Republican senators to change rules that have governed the Senate for two centuries now puts that system in danger.

Since 1789, the Senate has rejected nearly 20 percent of all nominees to the Supreme Court, many without an up-or-down vote."

"Between 1968 and 2001, both parties used filibusters to oppose judicial nominees. In 2000, the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency, Republican senators filibustered two of his nominees to be circuit judges. They also prevented Senate votes on more than 60 of Mr. Clinton's judicial nominees by other means."
The argument that nominees deserve an up-down vote is as unprecedented as it is silly. Neither party has ever had this notion that a sheer majority should be the only determiner of whether someone gets a seat on the Federal bench. Republicans have seen no problem with either filibustering Democratic nominees or merely holding up their nominations committees. So much for an up-down vote.

The duplicity of all of this conservative sound and fury is belied by the fact that a full 95% of Bush's nominees have been confirmed, which is more than were given to some recent Presidents, who saw a full 60 percent of their nominees blocked by the Senate.

We have things like the filibuster for a reason. It's one of the checks on legislative majorities available in our government. Filibusters force slight majorities to negotiate and compromise with minority parties. The fact that the Dems are so intent on filibustering these few nominees reveals what a terrible job the Republican majority and the president have done in attempting to unite a nation that remains sharply divided, especially after a presidential election in which the electorate was fairly evenly split. Those calling for an end to the filibuster know that the United States does not operate under a majoritarian system, their willingly obtuse cries about judicial tyranny to the contrary. We place checks on legislative majorities to as to protect things like minority rights. Getting rid of the filibuster is a one-road ticket to allowing the currently sitting administration to put whoever it wants in federal courts, which is a scary notion, given that administration's tendency to pander to Religious conservatives to maintain its political power.

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