Thank God we’re done with A.S. elections. I mean, who wants to hear two parties castigate each other when any citizen can easily watch news from Capitol Hill?
In the past weeks, one of the more troubling issues between the parties has been over the use of the filibuster in hindering Bush nominees from attaining federal judicial seats. Dubbed by many Democrats as the “nuclear option,” the Republicans are trying to make a change to abolish the filibuster when it comes to voting in judicial nominees.
For those that are not politically astute, let me explain what a filibuster is and what purpose it serves. When someone filibusters, they must stand up in front of the chamber and keep talking in order to delay a full Senatorial vote on a particular issue. A filibuster usually takes hours while bringing the Senate to a complete halt and requiring all members to stay on the floor. The only way to end a filibuster is with cloture, which requires 60 members of the Senate to end it. What the nuclear option intends on doing is eliminating the option of using a filibuster when it comes to judicial nominees. If that was as overly complicated as it was for me, visit http://www.savephil.com, a funny cartoon that makes so much sense.
Before we delve into possible consequences of this problem, it’s necessary to look out how this problem arose. Back in 2000, when Bush nominated 215 Federal judges, the Democrats confirmed 205 to be appointed, with the 10 of the most conservative judges eventually dropping their nomination due to the threat of a Democratic filibuster. For example, one of his nominees is Priscilla Owen, who has been known to be a law-making activist rather than an interpreter. She has also consistently backed corporations against workers and worker protections groups, along with being engaged in ethically questionable activity. She was so conservative that Republicans failed to end a filibuster on her four times. Another example is Terrence William Boyle, who has had decisions overturned 150 times, twice the average rate. For more on these wonderful people, visit http://www.independentjudiciary.omc/nominees/.
Following the 2004 elections, Bush chose to re-nominate seven of the original 10, this time with more power in the Senate. Currently, there are 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and 1 Independent (though he usually swings Democratic). With this newfound power, he intends to completely bypass any kind of obstacle the Democrats attempt, including the ever-popular minority tool known as the filibuster.
It would also be ignorant to believe a filibuster has never been used against liberal nominations. Remember Clinton? When he was president, he tried to nominate judges, but was blocked by, you guessed it, filibusters that Republicans put up. However, herein lies the difference. Rather than trying to strike down Republican power, Clinton tried to make concessions with Republican leaders. Bush has done no such thing.
There will be many consequences if the Republicans succeed in passing the nuclear option. For one thing, there will be nothing to stop a full Senate vote. If a vote does happen, it would only take a simple majority to confirm a nominee. In addition, Democrats have promised to become only more resistant, maintaining they will stop any kind of legislation Bush or the Republicans attempt to push through. This may not seem like a big deal, but what people don’t realize is the Senate is run through a lot of courtesy and unanimous consent, which will be destroyed if the nuclear option is passed.
Not only does the nuclear option strip the Democrats of what minority they possess, but also demonstrates an abuse of power on the part of Republicans. Although the Right controls the White House, Supreme Court, and now Congress, the pendulum will eventually shift and Democrats will take control again (fingers crossed for ’06,’08). When that time comes, Republicans may find themselves in a minority position and wish they still had the filibuster.
For me, nothing screams abuse of power more than limiting the minority party’s influence when the other party is in control. That’s just me. As for the judges, a filibuster can be considered a good thing. If a judge is too extreme in either direction, a filibuster ensures that a person must satisfy a wide spectrum of political beliefs, leading to more moderate judges
Evan Ingardia is a freshman history of public policy major.