Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Will the Filibuster be Done Away With?

April 27(May 10), 2005
In Washington and around the country, the filibuster debacle grows with every day. As tensions continue to grow over judicial nominees, both sides are gearing up for a Congressional battle of historic proportions. Increasingly, however, the Left and Right (with the exception of a few members) seem more polarized than ever, and a showdown has thus far been averted only by the heroic efforts of individuals like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
“There ought to be enough moderately intelligent senators to come up with a solution,” Democrat Ben Nelson lambasted yesterday on CNN’s, “Inside Politics,” with Judy Woodruff.
Charles Schumer, a Democratic member of the Senate, cautioned that the revocation of the filibuster would, “dramatically change the way that the Senate functions.” He is certainly correct in that assertion. The Senate is the upper house of the legislature, and, as such, the Founding Fathers intended it to have more stringent standards than the House of Representatives. The majority vote legislation to come out of the House could often be (and many times still is) deeply partisan, with the slant of the bills depending on whichever party is in control of the lower chamber. Today, it’s the Republicans, who also hold the Senate, White House, and Supreme Court. Therein lies the key.
It was for this very situation that the filibuster was created in the first place. To prevent single-party rule or a takeover of the whole government by any one group, the framers of the Constitution wisely bestowed upon Senate additional stipulations and privileges that the other house of Congress did not have to adhere and was not privy to. One of these, the filibuster, allowed for a reasonable minority to stall (and eventually kill) legislation that it found disagreeable. A very large majority (sixty senators) can override the filibuster, although this technique (donned the, “nuclear option,” by melodramatic Democrats and the, “Constitutional option,” by Republicans who want to downplay the partisan nature of their own attacks and the significance that such a legislative action would have) has been used quite sparingly in American history.
In a period when federal institutions are already coming under an alarming amount of influence from extreme right wing religious organizations, the majority of the American people feel that eliminating the filibuster would not be the wisest course to take. Not only that, but most feel that this is not just an issue of Democrats being bullied by Republicans; as Republican Senator Hutchinson notes, “We stopped sixty of Clinton’s judges,” using the filibuster during a period when the legislative and executive branches had come under the sway of the Left. Perhaps Senator Hutchinson is right, and the filibuster should be preserved for all minorities, regardless of party. Americans, in any case, seem to think so, and generally are not taking kindly to Republican assertions that, “President Bush’s nominees deserve an up or down vote.” Given that a huge number of President Bill Clinton’s nominees (judicial and otherwise) were never even given a committee vote, it is not just Democrats who find this to be a bit hypocritical.


Anonymous SoloD said...

It will certainly be a fascinating debate -- it looks like the the whole matter hinges on 3 or 4 Republican Senators. It will be Washington drama at its finest, but my prediction is that Frist will only get 49 votes -- I think Warner will ultimately chose not to participate in the destruction of an instution that he loves.

BTW - Thanks for the nice comments you left.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous SoloD said...

Again, thank you for the kind comments.

I think I spend more time looking at sites that don't agree with me, but are still reasonable and well written, such as OTB or PoliBlog, than with the fellow travelers. (Probably not the best term to use historically, but it can just be so damn accurate some times.) I have always relished the good fight more than hearing everyone stand around and agree. As a conservative Dem, I imagine that you are much like this as well.

I have done my time in politics, but now I am just an interested observer. The nice things about blogs is that I can get the political thoughts out of my head without driving my wife (not a fellow traveler) crazy.

8:25 PM  
Blogger activist kaza said...

hi Centrist:
The delays on this vote are indicative of the uncertainty on both sides. I genuinely believe that 3 or 4 Senators are holding their cards close to the vest, and Frist doesn't know if he can win it, hence the delay. But the Tennessee doctor has backed himself into a corner with this one, because if he doesn't force a vote, then he likely will see his Presidential chances for '08 go up in flames with his conservative base. Maybe that's a silver lining.

I'm glad to see you're writing about these issues and believe there is much more common ground in America than we are currently led to believe by our media. Keep up the good work!

And hope you'll continue to weigh in over at our blog as well...

9:37 AM  

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