Thursday, March 17, 2005

The "nuclear option"

The “nuclear option,” a fearsome sounding term referring to the development of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. The more nations that exercise the “nuclear option,” the more dangerous the world becomes. We must act to deny the nuclear option to …

What’s that you say? “Nuclear option” isn’t about nuclear weapons? It’s about changing a rule in the U.S. Senate?

Senate Democrats use this term to denote the potential change in the Senate rules that would prevent them from avoiding voting for or against nominations to the judiciary, including the Supreme Court.

Any such change would mark "an unprecedented abuse of power," Sen. Harry Reid D-Nev., wrote Majority Leader Bill Frist R-Tenn. "The power to confirm judges includes the right to use well-established Senate rules to reject nominees." Translation: “We demand to be able to continue to avoid our responsibility to approve or reject nominations by the Bush administration, and to do so for purely political reasons, inasmuch as the administration intends to appoint judges who will merely interpret the Constitution’s plain language and who will refuse to make law from the bench. We prefer rather than simply voting ‘no’ on those individuals whom we deem unfit by virtue of their unreasonable adherence to the Constitution’s original intent, that we may delay a vote on those individuals until Hell freezes over, at which time there would be no need for anyone to hold that position, thus rendering a vote moot.”

Republicans rebutted swiftly, Sen. Frist in the lead. "To shut down the Senate would be irresponsible and partisan. The solution is simple: Return to 200 years of tradition and allow up or down votes on judges," he said in a written statement.

What Sen. Frist refers to is that judicial nominees are confirmed by a simple majority of votes, which in the Senate is 51 votes. Because Republicans hold 55 seats in the Senate, and because most Republican senators will support the administration’s nominees, the Democrats can only block nominations by finding some back-door scheme that requires more votes than the Republicans can muster. By initiating the filibuster rule on a given nomination, the nomination is effectively stalled because it takes 60 votes to end the filibuster.

If a filibuster is invoked, and the Republicans can muster only 55 of the 60 votes needed to end it, the nominee who should only need 51 votes to be confirmed will have gotten effectively 55 votes, but still will not be confirmed. This is just wrong.

What Sen. Reid expects Sen. Frist to do is to nullify filibuster as a means to block up or down votes on the nominees. However, Sen. Frist has made no statement to that effect.

In his statement, Frist said: "I am committed to getting the work of the American people done in the Senate, which includes advice and consent on the president's judicial nominations as outlined in the Constitution. Never before in the history of the Senate has a nominee with clear majority support been denied an up or down vote on the Senate floor because of a filibuster."

"The Democrats have it backwards," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "They broke with a long-standing tradition of giving judicial nominations that reach the Senate floor an up or down vote, and we simply want to restore that tradition."

The Democrats/liberals/progressives depend upon having judges appointed to the judiciary who will make laws from the bench, because the American people do not support their initiatives in big enough numbers to have them made into law properly through the legislative process. They understand that if Mr. Bush’s nominees are approved, there will be more judges who will not short-circuit the democratic process of lawmaking, and they will be unable to have their unpopular, and often extra-constitutional, ideas “enacted” into law by judges.

And so they indulge in this unseemly and un-American scheme to change the rules when the rules get in the way of their agenda.

Story here.


JL Pagano said...

This appears to be a remarkably partisan piece which aims to show how remarkably partisan the other side is being.

Can I assume that Republicans in congress stood idly by and did nothing while the Democrats had the White House 1994-2000???

When it comes to shenanigans on the floor of both Houses of Congress, I have a feeling each side is as bad as the other!!!

James Shott said...

You've found me out. It's true: I have a political/ideological position.

There's plenty of mischief on both sides of the Congressional isle, and both sides maneuver and use rules to achieve their purposes.

But there is mischief, and then there is mischief. In this case the rules are being MISused to achieve a condition that is clearly outside the Constitution's specific process for confirming judges.

I think that's wrong.

Taylor W. Buley said...

If you're interested in reading more on the filibuster, check this out: