Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Senators McCain (R-Az), Warner (R-Va), Nelson (D-Ne), and Lieberman (D-Ct) announce the bi-partisan committee's compromise on the Judicial filibuster (Reuters)

I would normally view myself as the proverbial "eternal optimist", but when it comes to the Senate compromise reached yesterday on the Judicial Filibuster of President Bush's nominees, I am pessimistic.

The Wikipedia defines a "filibuster" as "a process, typically an extremely long speech, that is used primarily to stall the legislative process and thus derail a particular piece of legislation or a Presidential nominee, rather than to make a particular point in the content of the diversion per se." [1] As you can see, the filibuster was originally intended to stall or delay the completion of a piece of business. "[But i]n current practice," the Wikipedia continues, "Senate rules permit procedural filibusters, in which actual continuous floor speeches are not required, although the Senate majority leader may require an actual traditional filibuster if he so chooses." [2] Our Senators have gotten lazy and the current procedures have contributed to the obstructionist mentality of many members of the U.S. Senate.

Under the compromise reached last night, the seven Republicans on the committee have agreed to table the Constitutional Option (aka the Nuclear Option) while their seven Democratic counterparts have agreed to table their filibuster of three of the five current nominees. The problem is that the Democrats have reserved the right to filibuster any future nominees they consider to be "extreme", while the Republicans retain the option of using the Constitutional Option if the Democrats return to their "old tricks". [3]

Despite the committee's stressing of the words "faith" and "trust" in each other [3], Senate Republicans have already expressed their hesitance to trust the Democrats. Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) responded today by saying, "The Constitutional Option remains on the table. It remains an option. I will not hesitate to use it if necessary (but) it should be used as a last resort." [4] Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) responded with disappointment in the reference to this option [4], but Sen. Frist's distrust was quickly confirmed to be justified as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) reported today in an interview on FOX News, that "The agreement... says we'll only use the filibuster in extraordinary circumstances... those ten [nominees that have been filibustered] are extraordinary cases, and that will continue to be the status-quo, I think." [5]

The problem is, Sen. Boxer and her cohorts are the ones that are "way out of the mainstream." Bottom line: This compromise was too vague and is, in effect, only a truce, not a treaty. This is good for Conservatives in the short-term, since it means three of the five nominees will finally get their vote. But it will be short-lived as extremist Democrats continue to label Conservative nominees "exremists" and revert to their filibuster, and as Republicans reciprocate by invoking the Constitutional Option.

The only real long-term solution I see is to return the filibuster to the debating tool it has been in previous years. Our representatives need not be indefinitely obstructing the Government's business, but should be allowed the opportunity and time to argue their case. In my view, the Senate should be allowed to debate any issue until they've debated it out. If either party wants to filibuster, then let them stand on the Senate floor and argue their case until they've either proven their point or wore themselves out. But as soon as they leave the floor, it is time to vote... up or down. The Senate's job is to "advise and consent" on the issues brought before them. If they want to vote "no", then that's their prerogative; but to indefinitely block the vote is a blatant abuse of the power entrusted to our representatives, and it needs to be stopped.


[1] Wikipedia, "Filibuster", http://www.answers.com/filibuster&r=67
[2] ibid., "Filibuster: Filibusters in the United States Senate", http://www.answers.com/filibuster&r=67
[3] "LIVE FOX News Alert - Special Report", FOX News Channel, 05/23/05, 7:30 pm EST
[4] "Dayside" with Linda Vester, FOX News Channel, 05/24/05, 1:00 pm EST, dayside@foxnews.com
[5] "FOX News Live" with Martha McCallum, FOX News Channel, 05/24/05, 2:30 pm EST, martha@foxnews.com


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