Rebuttals on Filibusters (no, David, the horse continues to breathe)

I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea; the Democrats are not right to act in the manner which they are by filibustering nominees. It is a partisan action which does nothing to promote any sense of cooperation, a sense which the Congress is desperately lacking in. David, I am glad that you pointed that out. Consensualism is, in a heterogeneous republic such as the United States, a much more stable and workable practice than the majoritarianist, absolute competition which seems to define the policy of both parties in our present time. I will continue, however, to defend my original position; in the context of what David and I have commented upon, to ban filibusters is to further destroy the spirit of contemplative consultation, the mutual agreements and compromise (as Arendt would put it) which are the base of real statesmanship. Here are my rebuttals to some things from Brian’s post (and, to Brian’s brother, I really appreciate your input and your constitutional citations).

Now the great mystery to me is why the hell the Republicans don’t simply call the Democrats bluff and make them filibuster.

I agree completely. This would force the Democrats to demonstrate what is true; that they really do not have any interest in seeking compromise, nor do they care about proceeding with the business of running the country despite their petty partisan games. Like you, I am perplexed as to why the GOP is not capitalizing on this and using the opportunity to further wound the perception of the Democratic Party among swing voters.

If anything, the Democrats are the ones who have changed the Senate rules on advising and consenting, and the Republicans are merely attempting to change the rules back to the way they have always been.

Basically true, but that doesn’t mean that it looks particularly good. Democrats may be taking a loose interpretation of “advise and consent,” but it at least approaches a semblance (since rules aren’t clear as to what means “consent” is delivered by). The Democrats are breaking with convention, which is bad; the Republican Party would be unnecessarily changing procedure, which while it may not be any worse in actuality, is much more severe from the point of view of the public, especially of the swing voter. Good politics necessitate that attention be payed to that voter’s perception; they are the ones who decide elections, power, and ultimately policy.

The Republicans are completely within their Constitutional powers to change Senate rules.

True. But that doesn’t make it a good idea politically for either the Party or the nation itself.

…we all know that the Republicans would never use this tactic of filibustering judges

I’m not convinced on that. I suspect that at least some Republicans would be perfectly willing to do so to block the nominations of judges whose views disagreed with their own on topics such as abortion, gay marriage, religion in schools, et cetera. Would that make it more just, in order to prevent the nomination of “activist judges”? I understand that Republicans have not done so in the past, even in these cases, but that doesn’t define what current or future Republican congressmen might be led to do in a more starkly partisan environment as exists now.

But as far as “blurring the lines of church and state,” that is ridiculous. (In reference to Frist appearing via telecast organized by evangelical/conservative Christian groups)

Not prohibited, but unconventional. And also unwise, considering that Republicans are trying to argue against judicial activism. To clarify my point, I am arguing here that Frist was contradictory by holding forth at an event subtitled “Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith” (USA Today). The theme of the event clearly was the belief that judges being blocked by filibuster would act in the concomitant interest of the event’s backers. This is a view of the judicial process just as activist and just as warped as that of liberal judicial activism. By appearing before this group, Dr. Frist lost to at least some degree the ability to argue well that he and other Republicans are seeking wise arbiters of the law, rather than another branch of policy makers.

In short, the views of judges on politicized judicial issues like those mentioned above should not be what determines their appointment. This goes for both Republicans and Democrats. Those issues should be resolved through the wise interpretation of the constitution and other attendant laws, not through liberal activism or conservative activism or religious (or nonreligious) morality. I believe that President Bush’s nominees are well-suited for that task, and understand it. It is congressmen of both parties who fail to understand the role of the judiciary.

Filibusters (Is the horse dead yet?)

Your first posulate: “The Republicans are completely within their Constitutional powers to change Senate rules.”

Your second: “…if Democrats were the majority party, the Democrats would have absolutely no qualms about using their elective power to change the rules.”

And so based on those two things you support changing the Senate rules? What happened to treat others how you want to be treated? I agree wholeheartedly with Adam that it sets a bad precedent, changing Senate proceedings when you don’t get your way.

We live in one of the most politically divided times in our nation’s brief and often volatile history. No matter which side you fall on, I think both can see the advantages of working towards cooperation as opposed to fighting things out with filibusters and rule changes. That’s why my original post said shame on both sides, because two wrongs never make a right. We’re not justified to change the rules because we don’t like the results. So if the Democrats want to play dirty, I say let them. I’ll take the high road any day of the week. Anyone who knows anything about anything will see who the real losers and winners are.

Wait a second

Guys, you make one good point. Our party leaders are wimps. But as far as “blurring the lines of church and state,” that is ridiculous. Politicians do town hall meetings and the like all over the country to support their positions. What difference does it make if Frist appeared on a telecast to a group of churches. The constitution says that there shall be no establishment of a national religion. It does not say that we should strip our nation of all religion. And that is exactly why these appointments are NOT a “relatively unimportant bit of business.”

Before I got the chance to post on this issue, my brother emailed me about your posts. Here is what he had to say:

From the US Constitution; Article. II – Powers textually committed to the President

Section. 2.

Clause 2: (The President) He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

From the US Constitution; Article I – Powers textually committed to Congress

Section. 5.

Clause 2: Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Based on the Constitution itself, the President has the sole power to appoint supreme court justices. The Senate is only involved to give their advice and consent. For more then two hundred years the Senate has used their Article II; Section 5; Clause 2 powers to give advice and consent to the President by way of a simple majority up or down vote on the Senate Floor. For the first time in the history of the country, the Democrats are filibustering justices thereby requiring a 60 vote super-majority to properly advise and consent. If anything, the Democrats are the ones who have changed the Senate rules on advising and consenting, and the Republicans are merely attempting to change the rules back to the way they have always been (a simple majority up or down vote on the Senate floor).

Now the great mystery to me is why the hell the Republicans dont simply call the Democrats bluff and make them filibuster instead of taking this roundabout way to solving the problem that THE DEMOCRATS caused in the first place. However, that is completely irrelevant in regards to whether or not Republicans have the power and are justified in using their elective power to alter Senate rules in such a way as to bring current proceedings back in line with over 200 years of Senate history. Bottom line, the Senate has the power in Article I to determine the Rules of its Proceedings. The Republicans are completely within their Constitutional powers to change Senate rules. Secondly, we all know that the Republicans would never use this tactic of filibustering judges (or atleast they never would have been the first to use it) and we also all know that if they ever attempted to and the Democrats were the majority party, the Democrats would have absolutely no qualms about using their elective power to change the rules.

Lastly, anyone who says these judicial nominations are not important is absolutely wrong. In regards to our social liberties and our rights as Americans to decide through the legislative process what kind of society we desire to live in, judicial nominees are quite possibly the most important issue next to the war on terror. Must we be reminded that it is the result of activist/liberal judges sitting on the Supreme Court over the course of the last 50 years which has begotten abortion on demand; ten commandments ripped out of schools, court houses, and town squares; no allowance for school prayer and now the questioning of the pledge of allegiance; foreign law being applied to interpret the Constitution; and soon to come a fundamental constitutional right to homosexual marriage; etc. etc. etc…

I must concur.

On Filibusters

I know that it’s frustrating for Republicans that they are unable to to get a small number of judicial nominees through. There should be a straight up and down vote on the thing already. The Democratic Party’s pathetic excuse of an ongoing power play really demonstrates the depths of desperation that they have been reduced to these past few years, and especially now.

But, I have to agree with David. Changing Senate rules for this relatively unimportant bit of business is not a precedent that need be set. It is also a precedent that could theoretically come back to haunt the GOP later, should the shoe ever be on the other foot, on some issue far more important than this one. It is simply not worth the potential damage and the likely loss of faith among moderate and undecided voters.

Also a bad decision was Sen. Frist’s appearance in a religiously themed broadcast to push for the resolution to the judicial nomination crisis–even if by the “nuclear option” of moving to do away with the filibuster. Not only is it a blurring of the lines between church and state (and somewhat of a break with the traditional vestiges of this separation), the appearance also could call into question the public perception of these judges. It would seem in the public perception as though the religious right expects the nominees to pursue the interests of their defenders. The Republican Party must remember that the standard of rule in the United States is “rule by law,” and only law–not by interest groups, as morally obsessed and well-intentioned as they may be.

What were they thinking?

Part of being a good Republican is being critical of your own party when they do something stupid.

Case in point:

The Senate’s Republican leader Bill Frist wants to ban the filibuster on judicial nominees.

I’ll be honest, I think it’s ridiculous that the Dems won’t let Bush put into place who he wants to. We kind of won the election, so we kind of get to choose. Quit crying about it is what I want to tell them. But getting rid of the filibuster?

“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government…Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient reasons.” -The Declaration of Independence

I think “because the Democrats are being mean” falls under the category of “light and transient reasons” for changing our government. So shame on both sides of the aisle. Politics as usual I suppose…

Unbelievable

“I am a professor, not a teacher. As professors we profess and not teach,” said NC Wesleyan political science professor Christensen, who has been attacked for her controversial teaching style. Turns out part of the course material is the assertion that the government had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. “People don’t want the truth out. The government’s version is a lie. They were involved and are covering up what happened. So what we do is look at different theories and evidence that has been discovered,” she said.

Man what a nutcase. Read what Mike Adams has to say about her here.