Carol Platt Liebau: Constitutional Option - Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Constitutional Option - Where the Rubber Meets the Road

There's an old hymn that goes, "Once to every man and nation / comes the moment to decide / in the strife of truth with falsehood / for the good or evil side."

Now, no one here is calling anyone "evil." The point is that sometimes there are moments of decision that have great importance -- even beyond the matter at hand.

Senate Republicans have reached such a moment in the whole protracted discussion of whether to resort to the "constitutional option." (That is, Republicans can end the Democrats' unprecedented filibustering of judges at the appeals court level by a ruling from the chair that the confirmation of judicial nominees requires only a majority vote, rather than the two-thirds needed to overcome a filibuster. 51 votes would then be required to sustain that ruling.)

Let's just note at the outset: Contrary to some of the misinformation being floated around, like inaccurate ads from leftist groups, the filibuster as it's currently being used is not some venerable part of Senate history. Most importantly, (1) It's being used here on calendar nominations rather than on legislation; and (2) The filibuster has become a de facto minority veto on nominations, not -- as it was intended to be -- a tool to ensure simply that matters before the Senate could be thoroughly debated.

Given all this, the constitutional option should be a slam-dunk, right? After all, there are 55 Republicans in the Senate (and as noted above, only 51 are needed to change the policy). Unfortunately, there are some waverers. These are people who don't understand that this debate is the fulcrum that will tilt the balance of power in the Senate either to the minority or to the duly elected majority.

Please contact the senators listed below. They are currently "undecided" about whether they would support a ruling from the chair that would prevent filibusters of judicial nominations.

John McCain -AZ
Chuck Hagel - NB
John Sununu - NH
Susan Collins - ME
Olympia Snowe - ME
Lincoln Chafee - RI"
Lamar Alexander - TN
John Warner - VA

The conservative base needs to communicate its absolute insistence on party solidarity in this matter. Otherwise, senators like the ones above will continue to consider their options, and enjoy the favorable press coverage that always accompanies a Republican deviating from the party line. And the other senators will be tempted to go wobbly, as well. As someone who worked on the Hill, I can testify that sometimes it becomes an insular little world, where, for too many, the opinions of Democratic "colleagues" -- much less The New York Times or Washington Post -- can become disproportionately important, and the views of ordinary conservatives can seem a bit remote from the business at hand . . .

Everyone must be made aware that any Republicans who defect on this issue are going to be considered hopelessly disloyal, and worse. That's because the issue at hand is about far more than the filibuster of appeals court judges (as outrageous as that is). It's about whether the Republican majority will continue to allow the Democratic minority to exercise an effective veto over much of the business in the Senate.

Remember: Republicans cannot succeed if they can't control the agenda. If they don't succeed (by dint of having given in to Democratic blackmail and threats), they won't win any thanks from the Dems -- instead, they'll be labeled as "failures" by their "friends" on the other side of the aisle. Since Republicans will be held responsible for their performance by voters no matter which side "wins" this confrontation, they'd darn well better make sure that they're going to have the power to shape their own legislative destiny.

Negotiation is a trip down the road to nowhere. The Democrats interpret efforts to compromise not as "good manners" but as an admission of weakness (just the way a dog lying in a doorway interprets humans' stepping over him as subservient, rather than polite, behavior). That's because the Democrats judge Republicans by their own yardstick -- and they'd NEVER be negotiating if they had the power to work their will.

On Hugh Hewitt's radio show, columnist John Podhoretz opined that he didn't think the issue was all that important. I couldn't disagree more. It's about whether unprecedented and outrageous attempts to establish rule by a radical minority will succeed in hijacking and controlling the Senate agenda. The filibuster of judges -- and all that it signifies -- must stop. Now.

Get informed and stay updated on this controversy at Hugh Hewitt, Committee for Justice, and DalyThoughts


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