John Dean on FindLaw's Writ said A new political campaign is underway. It was launched this week.
On one side are the Bush White House and Senate conservatives. The White House seeks to pack the federal judiciary with ultra-conservative judges and justices. Ultimately, the goal is to place far-right justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Given the age of several justices, and the poor health of the Chief Justice, one or more vacancies are expected at the end of the current term, in June.)
Ironically, it is the conservatives who seek to obliterate the Senate's two-hundred- year-old tradition of unlimited debate.
Actually all they are doing is gong back to the way the Senate has worked for the past 200 years; approviing judicial appointments by a majority vote. The fillibuster has been used for legislation many times in the past, and would still be available. It is only approving the President's appointments that they seek to approve with a majority vote.Indeed, they are avid about it: On April 4, an assembly of conservative organizations held a briefing at the National Press Club -- doubtless meant to keep the pressure on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. On the other side are Senate Democrats. They are fighting to keep the filibuster precisely so that they can block the Bush White House's nominees. They believe that some of the Bush-nominated ideologues lack the necessary temperament to be a federal judge.
What temperament would that be? A willingness to make up legislation from the bench, rather than letting the Legislative branch actually make the laws, and restricting themselves to the role the Founding Fathers invisioned the Judiciary as filling.If the Republicans win, then whenever a judicial nomination is reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a simple Senate majority vote will result in the confirmation - or failure - of the nomination. That is an extraordinary change in Senate procedure.
It is what they did for most of the past 200 years.Typically, the minority party has used the filibuster threat - in essence, a threat to talk the nomination to death before it can be voted on - in order to ensure that the majority party's nominees have sufficient bipartisan appeal.
That is true of legislation, but not approval of the President's nominees, except for the last couple of years.Only a cloture vote - which requires a 60-vote, three-fifths majority of the Senate - can stop a filibuster. The result has been either the nomination of moderates or, at least, of judges and justices palatable to the minority party.
Untrue. When the Democrats were in power they loaded the Judiciary with a lot of liberal judges. But now that they dont control the White House, the House of Representatives, or the Senate, they want to block conservative judges from going on the bench.Given that the judges and justices have life tenure, for the minority party to have this kind of input seems not only reasonable, but necessary.
If the situation was reversed and if there was a Democrat in the White House, and if the Democrats held a majority in the Senate, would that still be true?But now the Republicans want the Democrats, currently the minority, to have no input at all. That is particularly unfortunate given that Senate Democrats represent the majority of Americans - as Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. has pointed out. Dionne found, based on July 2004 Census Bureau figures, that the 44 Democratic Senators represent 148,026,027 people, while the 55 Republican Senators represent 144,765,157. (Independent Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords, who votes with the Democrats on such issues, represents 310,697, making the gap even greater.)
I don't know whether EJ Dionne realizes it or not, but the Founding Fathers specifically set up the Senate such that each state had two votes; it is the House of Representative that has proportiona representationThe Democrats do have one final weapon in their arsenal. If Republicans try to remove the filibuster option, then Democrats can try to make the Republicans play by all the Senate's Rules, construed literally. That, in turn, would bring the Senate's business to a halt - save for the barest essentials - and thus, Congress' business as well, for the House cannot pass laws without the Senate.
That would be wonderful. Congress does a lot of damage when it passes laws. Texas allows its Legislature to meet only one time every two years (unless a special session is called by the Governor) to keep them from making too much mischief. And it sounds like the Democrats are going to shoot themselves in the foot and shut down the Legislature. I hope the same thing happens to them as happened to the Republicans when they were blamed for shutting the House down.The Senate operates largely by "unanimous consent," which enables it to waive the myriad rules of procedure. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D NV) has made clear that should the Democrats destroy the filibuster option, he will not "enter into any consent agreements" except regarding matters that affect U.S. troops or are necessary for the continuity of government operations.
I suspect he means the Republicans, but I am happy to see consent agreements will no longer be used.In effect, the Democrats have the option of nuclear winter. If they don't rely on this counter-tactic - with the hope of restoring Republicans to their senses - they might as well pack up and go home.
That would be fine with me.No longer would there be an opposition party in the Senate.
CrooksAndLiars (must be a Democrat) blogged "When the rest of the country understands that it was Frist who was responsible for the destruction of the Senate, his chances for the Presidency will be over."
(Update) Santorum: Frist will go nuclear : Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, has reassured conservative activist leaders that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is committed to triggering the “nuclear option,” stripping Democrats of the power to filibuster judicial nominees.
Pessimist @LeftCoaster: blogged According to the well-publicized finding by law professor Herman Schwartz, in March 2000, Majority Leader Frist himself participated in the filibuster against Clinton judicial nominee Richard Paez. (In the end, Judge Paez was confirmed for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit after a cloture vote.)
So he was NOT blocked by a fillibuster, debate was limited by a cloture vote and he was rushed through