A Day Late...Going Nuclear
I wrote this on Saturday to post yesterday, but the day got away from me. After the compromise, it is significantly less topical, but I thought I’d post it anyway.
In January, the House of Representatives changed its ethics rule requiring ethics probes to go forward if there was at least a tie among ethics committee members.
Late last month, House Republicans reversed the decision because of concern that ethics scandals were taking a toll on the party image. (See, e.g. Tom “The Hammer” Delay).
The rule change lasted about three months.
There is potential this week to change another rule concerning how our national legislative bodies conduct their business. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist may bring to the floor a bill that will prevent application of the filibuster rule to judicial appointments.
As it stands now, in order to force a vote on a judicial nominee, you need 3/5th of the Senate. If Frist and the radical right get their way, only a simple majority will be needed.
Republicans hold 55 seats in the Senate today, five shy of the 60 needed to end a filibuster. I am concerned about the rule change (the majority of Americans agree with me). Here’s why I’m concerned.
1. The filibuster rule is a good one. It prevents tyranny of the majority, and it compels moderation in judicial appointments. Moderation is sorely needed. The presumption is that the Democrats are being unreasonable when they filibuster some nominees. The Republicans have been masterful in keeping the attention focused on Democratic filibusters and not on whether the nominees who have not made it to the Senate for a floor vote should be appointed to serve as federal judges for life. Stated simply, some folks should not be approved.
2. Priscilla Owen is a perfect example.
3. The Democrats have not been unreasonable. For example, this character got confirmed. And it would have been eminently reasonable to deny his appointment.
4. Most of all, the rule change represents an unbelievable grant of power to a Republican President who has demonstrated a tremendous ability to make horrible appointments. Like this one.
5. A change to the rule could have a devastating impact on the Supreme Court. Especially if a Justice like Justice O’Connor (annoyingly moderate) or Justice Stevens (pray for the health of Justice Stevens; pray for his health and send him vitamins). In fact, pray for Justices Ginsburg, Kennedy, Souter and Breyer too.
6. It is still more evidence that the Republican Party and the religious conservatives who run it, will stop at nothing (will leave no rule unchanged, will tamper with any amount of votes) in order to achieve their ends. Nothing is sacred except the outcome. Nothing.
7. Last, one nominee (and I realize that if it were not Owen, it would be someone else) should not trump long standing rules and procedures.
As is evident by the January change to the House ethics committee rule, Republicans will achieve their extremist agenda by any means necessary.
It goes like this:
we need to keep Delay...
Delay is unethical...
the rules would require a probe...
the probe would unearth the unethical behavior...
change the rules.
Image and public outcry compelled them to do an about face on the ethics rule change. Americans have the ability to prevent the nuclear option from ever reaching the floor of the Senate too. All we need to do is let them know that the bomb they threaten to detonate will impact more than the filibuster rule – it will impact the image of the Republican party (BTW, 2006 is closer than you think – I’m rested and ready to retake some seats).