Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Constitutional Option for Judges

When the Republicans in the US Senate vote to end all filibusters of president's appointment of judges they will be returning the process to the US Constitution. Before 2001 the was no filibuster to block the president's appointment of judges. The one exception proves the rule: Abe Fortas was appointed to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. They discovered a background flaw near the time for the vote. So the purpose of the filibuster was so additional investigation could be done. That's the purpose - to extend the time to debate. And it was bipartisan. It lasted less than 2 days. Fortas's situation was so bad that he removed himself from the nomination. There was not a second filibuster of a judicial nomination from 1878 to 2001. So what the Democrats are doing is without precedent. The Republicans are going to clarify the Senate rules to be what they have always been. No filibusters against Presidential appointments. Three reasons why this is the right thing to do: 1- The purpose of filibuster was to allow time for debate; it was never intended to completely block anything. The intent was to avoid the following: just as they are starting to discuss a bill someone says "I call for the vote", then the majority votes "Yes" and the bill passes without any discussion of its merit. That is the reason to extend debate. I have been in situations where this was done and it was very frusterating. 2- Filibustering presidential nominees to death violates the balance of powers of the 3 branches of our government - legislative, executive and judicial. A judicial nomination is not the Senate's business. It originates from the president in the executive branch. The nomination and approval is the team effort of two branches. So it is appropriate for the Senate to go through its committee process and vote. 3- This is majority rule. The Democrats lost and want minority rule. No. The majority rules. The majority runs the committee. If the majority of the committee opposes the nominee then she is out. But the minority can't rule the process. Poor Tom Daschle lost his prestigious Senate seat over this. And a side note: We could call what the Republicans are going to do "the Byrd option." Because when Robert Byrd was the majority whip (did you hear about his dog Billy?) a filibuster required 67 votes. Even with the majority he couldn't get enough votes to block something. So Byrd changed the rules - by a majority vote - to reduce the filibuster from 67 to 60 votes. The Republicans should bring up Janice Brown of California to the floor so everyone can see that President Bush nominated a black woman who has been elected in liberal California - by a comfortable margin. Then have the vote. Update. Senator Carl Levin was caught Sunday telling the truth - that the Democrats expect their minority to rule:
Levin declared that "we should not give up on the principle" of the right to filibuster judges, including Supreme Court nominees. He said that it was "important to have the power of minority rule." He quickly corrected, "Not minority rule." He added that "we should not throw out the rule book."
Red - Scroll down to "CARL LEVIN AND CHUCK HAGEL ON TW." Some bloggers have the definitive news source for the status on the judicial battle: Confirm

No comments: