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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 25, 2005 1:38 PM. The previous post in this blog was Something I learned in Orlando. The next post in this blog is PDC: Pretty Darn Comical. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Fili-busted

If you have a rule that a 60-percent-plus-1 vote is required for something, but that rule can be changed by a 50-percent-plus-1 vote, then it isn't much of a rule to begin with.

Comments (15)

Jack, you're misreading what they are doing, or, rather, what they were planning to do. The "nuclear option" was not about "changing the rules." To change a Senate rule you have to follow a procedure they could not have followed because they didn't have the votes. So they were going to hold a vote to find the existing rule--the fillibuster--unconstitutional. To find the fillibuster unconstitutional, they would need only 51 votes, not 60+ that they need to "change the rules."

Change it, repeal it, declare it unconstitutional -- it's all the same to me. Whatever the label, it nullifies the old rule. And if the old rule can be nullified by a 50 percent vote, it wasn't much of a supermajority rule to begin with.

And if the old rule can be nullified by a 50 percent vote, it wasn't much of a supermajority rule to begin with.

Probably because the framers of the Constitution didn't really plan on 50 guys deciding that something the Senate has been doing for 200 years is unconstitutional. That has not been done before, hence the term "nuclear option."

The point is that the planned exercise to have Cheney declare unconstitutional the filibuster rule (or the rule requiring 2/3 to change the rule) was bogus. Sort of like the Supreme Court halting the count of ballots in a presidential election for no more than the simple reason that it could. As a law professor, I assume you've mentioned to your students that, in the final analysis, all that constitutes the force of the law is the willingness of honorable people to follow it. Which excludes the bunch of jackals, thieves and assorted criminals that occupy the three branches of government.

The more I think about this, the more I think it was a bluff on the part of Republicans to get what they wanted. I can't believe they thought they were going to overturn the filibuster rule. And if they had, the backlash would have been enormous. It would have been just like the government shutdown ten years ago. In the end, they got the judges they wanted and they'll go back to the drawing board for the others. They'll try running the play again before the elections. I sort of hope the Dems let them do it, just to see what happens.

If I heard the story right then they were looking to remove the filibuster only with respect to judicial appointments. That's still a really big deal, though, since it amounts to making "advice and consent" a rubber-stamp for lifetime appointments when the Presidency and the Senate are controlled by the same party.

I don't know if they were bluffing or not. I suspect not, because there is likely to be a Supreme Court vacancy in this presidential term. The ability to fill such a vacancy with a rubber-stamped appointment would grant so-called conservatives an advantage in the "culture wars" for many years. They'd pay for it later, of course, when they lose control of the Senate... but they seem willing to defer payment on scads of issues these days.

Fear is a powerful emotion which often leads to extreme and/or irrational behavior. To use fear as a tool to promote ones agenda with a complicit media is powerful propaganda. Misplaced fear might even be a more powerful stimulant to action than is pride - Adolph's approach.

The phrase “nuclear option” apparently worked as intended. There’s an awful lot of chuckling going on at the white house.

http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=1&vote=00129

A link to the roll call vote to end the Bolton filibuster. Majority Leader Frist voted against cloture and for extending debate. Both sides of the issue in the very same week. Very nice.

Chris:

I wouldn't make too much of that. For starters, the Bolton nomination is much more controversial than Owens was, in that everyone knew Owens would win a floor vote and no one knows which way a Bolton vote would go. If the dems are filibustering his nomination, that probably means they're not confident of victory on the floor. If Frist voted against cloture, that probably means he isn't either. I think both sides are stalling; one side hoping everyone will forget the mountain of stupid crap Bolton has already done, the other hoping Bolton will do something else stupid as he waits.

Secondly, in an ideal Senate filibusters and cloture are tools, not issues in themselves. Our current Senate is not exactly an ideal one, of course, but the principle is sound. :-)

If Harry Reid had pulled the same stunt, he'd be roasting on a spit this morning. But because it's Frist, he's going to get a pass. The bottom line is either you're for the fillibuster or you're against it. If you're against it, you need to vote against it and not hide behind some figleaf about "procedure", which was the spin I read on redstate.org this morning.

Who's doing the roasting, and who's giving the pass?

A link to the roll call vote to end the Bolton filibuster.

You conveniently left out that part where Reid told the White House that if they only provided the documents THAT THE REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE LEADER REQUESTED that he'd be glad to have a floor vote.

Typical of the sancitified realm of wingnuttia that asking for more information is a filibuster.

Wingnuttia. Aye.

Frist voted against cloture as a parliamentary move, in order to be able to be the one to revisit it later. You have to be on the winning side to take it up again, as I understand. He only did so once it was clear the filibuster side had their 41.

And IMO any vote taken with a significant move to stop cloture, IS in fact a filibuster. Perhaps it's only a temporary one to get more documentation, but it's the minority using their tool to slow or block progress on the floor. I support that action against Bolton in the current context, but let's call a spade a spade, eh?

voting "I want to keep discussion open on this appointment" is not the same as voting "I want 40 senators to be sufficient to extend discussions indefinitely".


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