Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Filibuster is Important. But What About Running the Country?

It’s looking more and more likely Senate Majority Leader Frist is going to try to “go nuclear,” ending the right to filibuster on judicial appointees. While the Republicans have that right (after all, the filibuster is not in the U.S. Constitution), doing so is incredibly short sighted.

One of The Yellow Line’s favorite politicians, John McCain (R-AR), explained why in an interview with Chris Mathews. McCain said:

Look, we won’t always be on the majority. I say to my conservative friends, some day there will be a liberal Democrat president and a liberal Democrat Congress. Why? Because history shows it goes back and forth. I don’t know if it’s a hundred years from now, but it will happen. And do we want a bunch of liberal judges approved by the Senate of the United States with 51 votes if the Democrats are in the majority?

And, once the filibuster is removed for one type of debate, what’s to stop future Congresses from removing it for other types of debate? This is indeed a slippery slope that could be the beginning of the end of the filibuster—one of the most unique and useful aspects of our democracy.

For those looking for a lesson in the importance of filibusters, Senator Robert Bird (D-WV) is a living (still breathing) example. As reported in USA Today:

In the 1970s, when [Byrd] was majority leader, he worked to curtail filibusters, using a parliamentary maneuver very similar to Republicans' tactics today. Now back in the minority, Byrd is the filibuster's leading defender. The GOP's plan to eliminate its use for the president's nominees will, he says, lead to "court-packing."

McCain is smart enough to see the danger in his party’s maneuverings. But he’s also wise enough to see the bigger truth: the Democrats are being needlessly obstructionist, the Republicans are being needlessly conniving and the business of the country is not being taken care of. In the same interview, McCain said:

[W]e ought to be able to work it out…We’re in a war. We’re in a war. Shouldn’t we be doing the people’s business?

Yes, Senator Frist. Yes, Senator Reid. Shouldn’t you be focused on running the Legislative Branch instead of politicizing the Judiciary?


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