Bust that Filler
Last Sunday in Louisville, KY a group of republicans and members of the religious right had an event called “Justice Sunday” at Highview Baptist Church. The purpose of this meeting was to appeal to the religious to force their senators to vote for some of President Bush’s judicial nominees; nominees that did not get approved for the bench during his first term. The reason they did not get approved is because they did not have enough votes to get approved due to the parties having almost equal representation in the Senate (50 Republicans, 49 Democrats and 1 Independent.) Now the tables have turned and the Republicans have a strong majority. There are legitimate concerns about the ability of the unconfirmed nominees, and the Democrats are willing to filibuster to keep them from being confirmed. While Republicans may have enough votes to confirm the nominees, they do not have the 60 votes to end the filibuster. This would effectively be then end of the road for the nominees.
The filibuster is an important piece of parliamentary procedure. It protects the minority party from being totally overrun by the whims of the majority party. It protects the rights of those who did not vote for the majority. It has been used, effectively, by both sides of the aisle. And thus, after all the exposition here, I come to the point of this post.
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Because even some conservatives don‘t think we should press the issue on requiring votes on judicial nominees. They‘re concerned that in the future, Republicans won‘t be able to use this same device to obstruct Democratic nominees.
Well, that may be true. But if what the Democrats are doing is wrong today, it won‘t be right for Republicans to do the same thing tomorrow.
Sen. Frist sent a 4-minute video to the gathering in Louisville, saying the above as well as saying the fillibuster is an attack on people of faith (I will not even go there…this time.)
But what makes this so, interesting is that Sen. Frist and other Republicans fillibustered and did not confirm 60 of President Clinton’s judicial nominees: so far all but 10 of Bush’s nominees have been confirmed. In fact, Republicans were the first party to use the fillibuster to stall the nomination of a judicial nominee.
“Good evening. The Senate today began its expected, but unprecedented, filibuster against confirmation of a President’s [ed. LBJ] nominee for Chief Justice of the United States, Abe Fortas.” That was said in 1968 by Walter Cronkite, but still Sen Frist will not admit it happened. Here is a Washington Post artilce going more indepth to this story.
So, Frist and his cohorts are distorting history for their means. Yes, I am sure it has happened on both sides. But, the point is this time they are working to remove an important piece of prodecure meant to protect the minority.
“The Senate,” … “is not a majoritarian institution, like the House of Representatives is. It is a deliberative body, and it‘s got a number of checks and balances built into our government. The filibuster is one of those checks in which a majority cannot just sheerly force its will, even if they have a majority of votes in some cases. That‘s why there are things like filibusters, and other things that give minorities in the Senate some power to slow things up, to hold things up, and let things be aired properly.”
That says it perfectly. Thank you Mr. Swartz! He said that 7 years ago. In fact, it was when President Clinton was trying to get James Hormel the ambassadorship of Luxembourg. The Democrats had a majority in the Senate and the Republicans did not want a gay ambassador to Luxembourg.
Just who is this Mr. Swartz. Well, 7 years ago he was the senior writer for The Family Research Council. But who are they? They are the group that sponsored last Sunday’s “Justice Sunday.” Yep, they were in favor of the fillibuster when it helped their ends. But now that their Republican friends are in control that makes the fillibuster obsolete.
I just wish they would get their heads on straigh about their stories. Maybe they should listen to Bob Dole, “I think you have to be very careful, that’s my advice, before you start tinkering with the rules. I mean the rules have been changed before. You want to think down the road. The Senate’s going to change. It’s not always going to be Republican. It changes back and forth. History shows that.”
I hope the Democrats remeber this, too, when they are back in power.