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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Filibuster pucky 

In case you thought otherwise, among the various methods for debating the confirmation of judicial nominees or procedural devices for permitting or blocking a vote on same, there is no principled basis for defending one position against another. This is a bare-knuckle political fight motivated by the fire-breathers on both sides of the argument. The threat inflation and ridiculous preening of Frist, Conryn, Santorum, Reid, Harkin, Kerry, Kennedy and virtually everybody else who has pronounced on the subject are nothing but spin, as empty of content as a shouting match on "Hardball."

The United States Senate is not a "democratic" institution, at least not in any real meaning of the word. It is quite deliberately anti-democratic. That is why tiny little inconsequential states like North Dakota get the same number of Senators as California. Therefore, there is no real basis -- other than past practice -- for the idea that legislation or judicial confirmations or anything else should pass with 51 votes. If the Senate wanted to get together and pass a rule that required 67 votes to pass anything, I am not aware of any provision in the Constitution that would prevent it from doing so. The same is true for all the other countless procedural devices and precedents that govern the Senate.

At the same time, of course, the Republican argument that every nominee is "entitled to a vote" is absurd. The nominees are not entitled to a damn thing. The interests of the nominee are inconsequential.

The fact is, the Republicans won the last election big time, and their constituents want them to use their considerable power to deliver a conservative judiciary. There is really nothing the Democrats can do about it within the Senate, so they are trying to raise the political cost to Republicans by making up all sorts of nonsense about the filibuster being essential to the protection of "minority rights" and and hoping that the press and the Great Unwashed will get the impression that the Republicans are acting like unprincipled bullies. The Republicans are, of course, bullies, as are all ascendant political parties. They are no more or less unprincipled than the Democrats, though, as this story makes clear.

The Republicans, for their part, want to act like bullies -- which is only natural -- but they don't want the voters to get that impression -- which also is only natural -- so they have made up all sorts of silly arguments about the nominee being "entitled" to a vote. Yeah. They're standing up for the little guy, that's the ticket.

This fight is about the allocation of power inside and outside the Senate. There is no truth or justice in this quarrel, only victory or defeat. I do not say this cynically -- as my regular readers know, I am not a cynic -- but because I have not heard an argument advanced by either side that is grounded in principle rather than public relations.

2 Comments:

By Blogger Pile OnĀ®, at Sat May 21, 11:24:00 PM:

Nice post Jack, there has been plenty to insult our intelligence in this battle.

I am concerned that the Republicans have come up with another entitlement. The entitlement to a vote.

I demand they vote on me....

wait...no I don't.  

By Blogger bill, at Sun May 22, 08:55:00 AM:

I think you are partly right -- the filibuster is an invention of the Senate, it was instituted as a Senate rule in 1836, there have been seven changes to the Senate filibuster rule since then, if my memory serves me. The recent problem has cropped up because of the Senate and what it's function is. Remeber days gone by? The people's house? the state's house? The Senate was never designed to be composed of a bunch of self righteous pompous kinglets trying to control the country. The Senate was originally intended to be a check on federal power, used by state governments to limit federalism. That all went up in a puff of populism back when, so much for the idea of limited federalism.

Back to the Senate filibuster. What set the Dems on this extra-Constituional course, blocking judges en masse, is the use of majority power by the Reps under Clinton. The Democrats have now been losing elections for so long(wonder why that is), as they see it, it's all the power they have left. But majority power is what elections are all about, filibusters are about tyranny. We now are examining whether 12 Senators can determine what judges are selcted. So why 12, why not 2? 1? Nope not for me. Let's stick with 51.

Democratic principles is how our government works, elections determine what happens next. People voted a Senate majority of Republicans. Does anyone think that the few judges that Bush will appoint make any real difference, or result in 'blowing up the country'? Give me a break.

If it weren't for the fact that liberalism is so abhorrent to the majority of the public and must be implemented by judicial fiat instead of free elections, the Dems wouldn't have anything to say. If liberalism is so great, put it to a vote. If judicial tyranny is so great -- ask Dred Scott.

No system of governance is perfect, but I submit that ours is the best the world has found so far. People just need to realize, elections are meaningful.

BTW, when did the House drop it's filibuster rule, and impose the Reed rule?  

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