Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More on Filibusters

According to Sam Rosenfeld writing at the American Prospect's website, Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist has overplayed his hand in his threat to resort to the nuclear option of abolishing the use of the filibuster for judicial candidates. I don't know if it is true, but it sounds plausible. I can think of no other reason for Frist to continue delaying a vote if he otherwise wants it.

EconRadical at Redstate.org is calling on Frist to resign over the matter, refering to him as a "rudderless clown" and stating that "he's been set up and [Democratic leader] Reid has outplayed him at every turn, but the responsibility for the coming fiasco rests largely with Senator Frist."

I am a little surprised at the extent to which the Right has become wedded to the nuclear option. The American Conservative Union announced that it will consider a vote on the issue in its ratings of Senators. Hugh Hewitt, a leading proponent of the move has written a smarmy and insulting speech that he would like to see a recently elected senator deliver:

Senators, the issue of judges matters more than you can imagine. More than it has probably ever mattered in the 217 years of our country's political history. So much does it matter, Senators Snowe and Chafee--and I say this as a friend--that if we refuse or lose this battle, I think you will lose your seats . . .

I want to early on in my remarks to thank Senator Voinovich. Senator, you may not have intended to do so, but with your comments in the Foreign Relations Committee last week, you opened the door. After you said you needed time to think about the Bolton nomination, well, every network couldn't rush an expert out quick enough to praise you for your integrity. Over at CNN I thought Bill Schneider was going to canonize you. Senator Chafee also was on a lot of broadcasts saluting your willingness to rethink your position. Others made the same point that it takes courage to change your mind in D.C.

I thought then, and I emphasize now, senators can change their mind on big issues, especially when it is because you have thought long and hard on the subject. I am hoping Senators Chafee and McCain, who have announced their intention to vote with the Democrats on the issue of the filibuster, that they use the opportunity that Senator Voinovich has given them to rethink their position and rejoin the caucus. I think it is much more important than saving Senator Chafee's seat, though I am fairly certain he will lose it if we lose this vote. It is more important than Senator Snowe's seat, though I think we will lose that one as well if we lose this vote. . .

I say that now and if we lose the majority and the presidency in the future, I will say it then. It is the principled thing to do, and it does nothing to dilute our institution's deliberate approach to legislation or blue slips or the committee's power. . .

Hewitt is inflating the importance of judical nominations so that they are virtually the only thing that matters. He should look back at the year 1937 if doesn't think that the courts have ever been more important than they are now. I assume many veteran senators are concerned about the institution in which they serve and the precedent that they would be setting. The Los Angeles Times called for abolishing all filibusters in an April 26th editorial:

. . . The filibuster debate is a stark reminder of the unprincipled and results-oriented nature of politics, as senators readily switch sides for tactical advantage. Politicians' lack of consistency on fundamental matters — the debate over the proper balance of power between Washington and the states would be another case in point — is far more corrosive to the health of American democracy and the rule of law than any number of Bush- appointed judges could ever be. For one thing, it validates public wariness about politicians professing deep convictions.

Liberal interest groups determined to keep Bush nominees off the bench are in such a frenzy that they would have you believe that the Senate filibuster lies at the heart of all American freedoms, its lineage traceable to the Constitution, if not the Magna Carta. The filibuster, a parliamentary tactic allowing 41 senators to block a vote by extending debate on a measure indefinitely, is indeed venerable — it can be traced back two centuries. But it is merely the product of the Senate's own rule-making, altered over time . . .

I don't agree with their position, but they are on far firmer ground that those calling for carving out a filibuster exemption. If Frist succeeds, the Democrats will have a precedent for future exceptions or abolition when they win the Senate.

1 comment:

Glaivester said...

"Senators Snowe and Chafee--and I say this as a friend--that if we refuse or lose this battle, I think you will lose your seats..."

Mr. Hewitt seems to forget that Snowe and Chafee are elected in their respective states. There is a reason why more leftist (or moderate, depending on your POV) Republicnas are elected in these states. That the voters in Maine will punish Snoew for voting with the Democrats on this ignores why she and not Tom DeLay-like people were elected in New England in the first place.