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A bridge too far for Senate Democrats

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted May 16, 2005

Routine filibustering of judicial nominees is not an enshrined right of the Senate minority, but a downright abuse of the political process that's unprecedented. Shame on the Democrats! The Senate Democrats have acted abominably and it's about to come back and bite them big-time. In fact, the Democrats have well-earned a kick-in-the-pants from the GOP majority. Each of President Bush's judicial nominees deserves an up-or-down vote. It's that simple. If the Democrats assiduously oppose any judicial nominee, then they are fully in their rights to do a "march-in-lockstep" down vote. But for heaven's sake, these nominees need a vote. Unfortunately, the modus operandi of the modern-day Democratic Party is "no vision, no ideas", and systematic obstructionism in response to the Republicans. The Democrats have been in the Senate minority since 2003, and they are bent on blocking Bush's judicial nominees, even if it means employing outrageous tactics.

Did the Democrats really believe that the Senate Republicans were going to let them get away with their unconscionable shenanigans indefinitely? The short answer is probably yes. A Senate showdown has been looming for months, and the Republicans are now poised to take action that will set the stage for all judicial nominees, including those to be considered for the Supreme Court in the not too distant future. The political stakes are huge. The future shape of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance. And, clearly, the Democrats have always had their primary focus upon the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, the Democrats are in for a rude awakening. They are not the only ones who know how to play political hardball. The GOP understands that there comes a time and a place when it must smack-down the shiftless Senate Democrats who are not only rejecting Senate tradition, but failing to enact their "advice and consent" role under the Constitution. Yep, if push comes to shove, the Republicans are planning to utilize the so-called "nuclear option", which entails a formal rule change that will do away with judicial filibustering.

There's quite a bit of misinformation and outright spin being promulgated by the Democrats and their allies in the liberal mainstream media who are attempting to convince the American people that the use of the judicial filibuster is somehow sacrosanct. It's not. Let's be clear about this: There is no mention of the Senate filibuster, or judicial filibuster, or any other type of filibuster for that matter in the Constitution. The claim of the Left-leaning crowd that filibustering is part of the "constitutional checks and balances" is pure tripe. In fact, the "advice and consent" clause of the Constitution was essentially thought to compel Senators to vote on judicial nominees. That had been the widely held view of both major parties, until, of course, the Democrats decided to throw caution to the wind in their obstructionist zeal. Thankfully, the American public is largely rejecting the gobbledygook being spouted by the Democratic Party concerning judicial filibustering. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, "57% of Americans say that Senate rules should be changed so that a vote must be taken on every person the President nominates to become a judge." In other words, the majority of Americans are in favor of the "nuclear option."

The filibuster is nothing more than a Senate procedural rule, first codified in 1806. And, until recently, it generally had been used to derail legislation. Moreover, the current judicial filibustering by Democrats is a radical use - an unprecedented use – of filibustering that's not in keeping with the custom of the Senate. The Republicans are well aware that it's incumbent upon them to preserve 214 years of Senate tradition that calls for an up-or-down vote on judicial nominees and is consonant with the Senate's constitutional duties. Hence, the Republicans are prepared to "go nuclear", altering Senate rules and banning judicial filibustering. As noted by GOP political analyst Tony Quinn in his recent column for the San Francisco Chronicle, "The filibuster is not a constitutional icon. It dates from a 19th century practice of senators talking until they dropped in order to stop legislation they did not like. . They simply talked the legislation to death. Not until 1975, with the reformist post-Watergate Senate, were realistic limits placed on the filibuster. A rule was adopted that 60 senators could stop unlimited debate." Otherwise, a simple majority, 51 votes, are needed to confirm judges.

The Senate Democrats have made no bones about it: If they have the judicial filibuster at their disposal, they intend to use it against President Bush's Supreme Court nominees. Clearly, the Senate Republicans must band together and ensure that the "nuclear option" is implemented. According to a piece in the 5/14/05 edition of the Washington Post, the Democrats have vowed to "retaliate against the anti-filibuster rule change by revoking their consent for routine activities -- a move that analysts said could bring the chamber to a standstill."

Oh really? Remember the GOP government shutdown in 1995? If history serves as a guidepost (which I think it does), disrupting the machinations of government will only anger the American people. I only hope that the Democrats follow through with their planned reprisal when they lose the judicial filibuster. They only stand to hurt themselves.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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