Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Finger on the Button

So as the Republican Caucus in the United States Senate effects the first step leading down the garden path to the "nuclear option" -- sending to the Senate floor the nominations of their Honors Priscilla Owen (Texas) and Janice Rogers Brown (California) to, respectively the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fifth and District of Columbia Circuits -- we find the flood of bullshit in which we unwittingly stand to be rising.

Republicans defended Owen and Brown, saying they were fine judges and Democrats broke with Senate tradition by threatening to filibuster their nominations.

Owen "deserves to be confirmed and she deserves the professional courtesy of an up or down vote," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who served on the Texas Supreme Court with Owen.

GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Brown's home state, said Brown was the type of judge the country needs, who has "a reverence for our Constitution, who will approach these issues with independence, an open mind, a lot of common sense, a willingness to work hard and an ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

Senate tradition? If the American people are foolish enough to believe the filibustering by the minority party during various confirmation battles and in other contexts is not a long-standing tradition of which both parties frequently have availed themselves, then they deserve to drown. (I think the very definition of American tradition is anything that played in instrumental role in the plot of a Capra film, don't you? If nothing else, the movie should illustrate to the less government savvy public that, contrary to the reckless insinuations of the GOP, the filibuster is hardly an invention of the post-Clinton Democratic party.)

Furthermore, the putatively odious premise that a minority of 42 Senators can prevent the it's-just-fair up-or-down vote on a president's nominees is nothing when compared to the Republican's frequent practice of "blue-slipping" Clinton's nominees to the bench. Under this system, a single Senator based in the state from which the nominee hails has the power to prevent that nominee from having the aforesaid up-or-down vote on the floor.

So when a Republican tells you 42 Senators shouldn't have the power to block nominees, tell him neither should one acting entirely on his own, but that didn't stop Republicans from repeatedly blue-slipping Clinton's nominees, such that he left office with far more vacancies on the federal bench than were there when he took office, and far more vacancies than are on the bench now after five years of Bush, who apparently has had more success seeing his judicial appointees take the bench than he'd like you to believe.

Finally, "reverence for the constitution," "independence?" I'm afraid Senator Sessions has fallen out of step with DeLay, Santorum, and the stronger half of the Republican caucus.

"Independence" will get you drawn and quartered as "activist" (a propos which, thank you to Senators Leahy and Kennedy for specifically noting that Brown and Owens are "judicial activists" in every sense of that phrase), and "reverence for the constitution" is fine unless you think the three branches should all actually do the jobs with which that fine document charges them, notwithstanding the criticisms of other branches which behave like kids in the sandbox whenever they don't get their way.

I would submit that most Republican voters wouldn't buy a $200 television from a pimply TV salesman at Best Buy who played as fast and loose with the truth with such aw-shucks shruggery and tacit condescension as the GOP has on just about everything to do with this issue. They shouldn't buy their domestic and international policy from them either.

Notwithstanding the damage it will surely do the Democrats in the short run, I really do hope that, if the filibuster is killed, the Dems stick to their guns and grind Senate procedure to a halt. Piss on the whole thing; let's make everyone on the Hill squirm. God knows everyone on the Hill has been making thinking people squirm for too long, now, and turnabout's a bitch.

30 Seconds on Google UPDATE: Not only is the filibuster a tradition nearly as old as the Senate itself, but Republicans have hardly refrained from using it in the context of Civil Rights, and in derailing at least one appointment to the United States Supreme Court.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plus, what's the "professional courtesy" stuff? The Congressional leadership blocks all kinds of things from coming up for up or down votes. Why should nominees who would be in office for the rest of their lives if confirmed get this priviledge when a host of bills that could later be amended are blocked from coming up?

3:47 PM  

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