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Friday | May 02, 2003

GOP considers suit to prevent filibuster

Bush's GOP, high on hubris and demanding unquestionable adherence to its ideology, is outraged that Democrats would filibuster to stop Bush's most radical judicial nominees.

Nevermind that this same party stymied years of Clinton's nominees, using an ever-shifting system of procedural rules to ensure the GOP-controlled Senate could prevent any Clinton nominee from ever seeing the light of day.

And Clinton generally avoided ideologically controversial nominees.

But now that Senate Democrats have discovered their backbone and targeted a small handful of Bush's nominees (just two thus far, perhaps two more in the coming weeks), the GOP is apoplectic. In fact, it is even considering suing Democrats to stop the practice.

Stymied now on two of President Bush's judicial nominees, Republicans are considering an attempt to change Senate rules or suing to ban judicial filibusters, even against long odds.

"It certainly could be taken to court," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said after Democrats on Thursday successfully blocked Texas Judge Priscilla Owen from getting a federal appeals court seat.

The discussions reflect frustration among majority Republicans that Democrats have been able to sidestep Bush's popularity and undermine one of his platforms: putting more conservatives in key judgeships.

Anyone with passing knowledge of constitutional law knows the courts will steer clear of this conflict. It's not for the courts to decide how the Senate conducts business. As for changing Senate rules, I couldn't begin to understand that body's byzantine rules. But it's not as if the filibuster is a new tool in the judicial nomination process. In fact, it was first used by Republicans back in LBJ's day to stymie one of his Supreme Court nominees, and a filibuster effort was launched against at least one of Clinton's nominees. (See this for more details.)

The Senate has rules to protect the minority from the oppression of the majority. Those rules are being used by Dems today, just as the GOP will someday use them against a majority Dem senate.

But this goes beyond playing by the rules of the game. The GOP is so wrapped up in ideological fervor that it views any dissent to its orthodoxy as akin to treason. To heresy. To betrayal. Witness the wrath inflicted on those GOP senators who oppose Bush's latest ridiculous tax proposal.

The Dems are doing the right thing. Let Bush try and make judicial nominations a campaign issue. Let them try to explain away Judge Owens' anti-abortion judicial activism -- described as such by Bush's own White House counsel. This is the good fight.

Bush has been effective in pushing through a radical agenda otherwise opposed by the American people by boldly forging ahead despite any potential or actual opposition. The Dems need to take a page from that playbook and fight back.

These filibusters are good first steps.

Posted May 02, 2003 10:26 AM | Comments (41)


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