Time to 'Go Nuclear'
Make no mistake,
the issue of judicial confirmations played a pivotal role in President
George W. Bush winning a second term and a stronger majority in
the United States Senate.
three full years of partisan obstruction in the Senate against his
highly qualified picks for the federal bench, and with the prospect
of at least one, if not two, three or even four potential vacancies
on the U.S. Supreme Court in the next four years, the President
touted the issue in nearly every stump speech he delivered, prompting
some of the loudest applause on the campaign trail and resulting
in a convincing win at the ballot box.
Obstructionist-in-Chief Tom Daschle (D-SD), who enjoyed 18 years
of solid support from South Dakota voters, was ousted, ending the
career of the long-time face of Senate Democrats and marking just
the third time in our nations history that a party leader
has been defeated. And if you ask John Thune, the former South Dakota
Representative who knocked the filibuster mastermind off his throne,
the judicial confirmation issue made the difference in his election.
the voters November 2 demand to "Confirm the Judges"
(or at least to hold simple up-or-down floor votes on their confirmations),
President Bushs judicial picks should not expect smooth sailing,
or even fair treatment, regardless of the GOPs 55-seat majority.
from Minority Leader Harry Reid to Judiciary Committee Ranking Member
Patrick Leahy to Charles Schumer have already hit the boob tube
talk show circuit whining that the Presidents nominees have
been treated fairly over the past three years. They argue that more
than 200 of the Presidents judicial nominees have been confirmed
while only 10 have faced the filibuster wrath clearly indicating
a continuation of their character assassination campaigns and obstruct-and-delay
is that, prior to the 108th Congress, no nominee to a
federal appellate court had ever been defeated by a filibuster.
By using the procedural tool to block 10 appellate court nominees,
Democrats successfully set an extra-constitutional precedent of
requiring 60 votes for Senate confirmation rather than the simple
majority 50-plus-one that the Founding Fathers intended. In doing
so, they have laid the groundwork to filibuster as many as four
Supreme Court nominees in President Bushs second term, which
has been the strategy all along.
not flinching, its time for the Republican leadership to exercise
the mandate on judges handed to them by the American people. In
other words, its time to "go nuclear."
Nuclear Option is nothing more than a correction of the current
interpretation of Senate rules to reflect the unconstitutionality
of filibustering judicial nominations. It would rely on a ruling
from the Chair most likely Vice President Dick Cheney
that would declare such a filibuster unconstitutional. The majority
would then uphold that ruling by simple majority vote.
is that Democrats have suggested such a parliamentary maneuver would
be taken as a "declaration of war," against which they
would retaliate with nonstop filibusters against nearly every piece
of legislation, grinding the Senate to a halt. Republicans should
call this bluff. If Senate Dems do retaliate, woe be it for their
17 members facing re-election in 2006. Just ask Mr. Daschle.
have been reluctant to move forward with the Nuclear Option because
they want to preserve their "right" to filibuster nominees
when theres a Democrat in the White House. But using partisan
filibusters to block judicial nominees who have secured majority
support is not a "right," as everything about it is wrong.
This is true regardless of which party is in power, for the very
reasons Republicans, themselves, argue today.
In a keynote
speech recently delivered at the Federalist Societys Annual
Gala, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist noted, "The minority
has abandoned over 200 years of Senate tradition and precedent,"
in filibustering judicial nominees. "This radical action presents
a serious challenge to the Senate as an institution and the principle
so essential to our general liberty the separation of powers.
The Senate cannot allow the filibuster of circuit court nominees
to continue. Nor can we allow the filibuster to extend to potential
Supreme Court nominees."
Leader is right. But it is one thing to say it and another to do
something about it.
speculation about a Supreme Court battle sooner rather than later,
now is the time to nuke the filibustering of judicial nominees and
obliterate, once and for all, what Senator Frist rightly called
the "tyranny by the minority.
November 11, 2004]