Ask Auntie Pinko
May 26, 2005
By Auntie Pinko
I'm confused. Did the Democrats win anything in the deal that
was cut to keep Senate Republicans from using the "nuclear option?"
It looks to me as though there will still be three very badly qualified
individuals confirmed as Federal judges, now. And since the Democrats
promised not to use the filibuster on other nominees in the future,
what can they do to stop a really unpalatable nomination to the
Supreme Court? If they filibuster, the Republicans can go ahead
and invoke the "nuclear option" again, claiming that Democrats broke
their end of the deal!
Wouldn't we have been better off to just let the Republicans
invoke the "nuclear option," and have all the Democrats walk out
and refuse to cooperate with the raping of the checks and balances
The only argument Auntie Pinko can see for making this deal, would
be the fear on the part of some Democrats that the Republican leadership
could change the rules to eliminate the filibuster, and that the
American people would not care. In such a case, the Democrats then
"walking out" or otherwise bringing the proceedings of
the Senate to a halt would be regarded as petulant obstructionism
and reflect badly on the Party.
I fear that there is some justification for this point of view.
There has been very little indication that large numbers of ordinary
Americans with no particular passion for either party attend very
closely to procedural infighting. Whether this is because the connection
between technical rules in the Senate, and their own interests,
is unclear, or because they don't think that the rule changes will
have much of a real effect, I do not know.
In any case, the possibility that large numbers of American voters
would see a decisive Democratic response to Republican action in
killing the filibuster as "bad behavior" by the Democrats has clearly
frightened enough Democratic Senators to make them feel that procrastination
is the best course. In return, they get to ignore (for now) the
two least-acceptable nominees. The price being the confirmation
of three other unacceptable nominees based on a vote. If the Democrats
can be resolute in party line opposition to these three nominees,
they will at least make some kind of statement to the American people.
And as you point out, Lorne, the future price may include a difficult
choice between even more unacceptable nominations, or reviving the
entire fight and rehashing everything that has been done so far.
There has been, so far as I am aware, no agreement by the Republican
Senators to refuse to consider the two nominations covered under
the agreement if the President is determined to submit them again.
Nor is there any concession regarding future unacceptable nominations.
Weighing all of these factors together, Lorne, while I do not
wish to condemn the Senators who brokered the deal (after all, compromise
is a valuable tool, and it is encouraging to see that it can still
be deployed in such a contentious atmosphere), I wish that they
had stood firm with the Party's leadership, and let events take
their course. I have confidence that in the long run, the Republicans'
actions would have reflected more poorly on them. And the filibuster
rule could have been re-instated as soon as the Democrats regained
control of the Senate.
On the other hand, do you think it would be reinstated if the
Democrats regained control of the Senate?
Auntie has her doubts. And we need the filibuster rule in the
long term, even if an agreement keeps it from being used in the
short term. There seems to be no good answer here, Lorne, but thanks
for asking Auntie Pinko!
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