Eliminating filibusters: a bad idea

Mike McLaughlin's view

Well, it looks as though there will be poor sportsmanship in Washington this year, and no, I’m not referring to the play of the relocated Expos. Instead, it appears the Republicans are going to carry out their threat to remove one of the most important checks of the Senate: They are threatening to remove the filibuster, as it involves the judiciary. The resulting fall-out would cripple the Senate for the next two years.

Republicans claim the Democrats’ insistence on gentleman filibustering — or not actually filibustering but not calling for votes either — on President Bush’s judicial nominees has prevented the filling of numerous vacancies in the Federal Court System. And technically, this is true. Of course, what they tend to forget to mention while rattling off their talking points is what occurred during the Clinton administration.

During the six years of Clinton’s term in which the Senate was controlled by the GOP, more than 60 of his nominees were bottled up in committee, creating many of the vacancies that remain open today. Once the Bush administration took office in 2001, they declared a desire to return to “civility” in judicial matters, in the typical manner of trying to purge the previous tone from the Capitol after spending the last six years making it.

At first, Democrats in the Senate (after gaining the majority in mid-2001) were fairly accommodating, approving a higher percentage of justices to the bench than any of the GOP controlled senates under Clinton, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, and I’m sure you’ll be as shocked by this as I was, this wasn’t good enough for this administration and was one of the major issues Bush used as a bludgeon to retake the Senate in 2002.

Much to the surprise of many Republicans, the Dems in the Senate actually grew a bit of a spine and proceeded to continue to block the justices, this time through the only option left available to them: the filibuster. After the 2004 elections and the increase in the number of Republicans in the Senate, the President decided to resubmit the names of those justices filibustered in the previous Senate, provoking the predictable response of yet more filibustering from the Dems.

Now, one would hope that the GOP would realize the shortsightedness of such a move. After all, the Democrats will eventually control both the White House and the Senate at the same time, and while I certainly don’t have a problem with the idea of Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Clinton, I’m guessing my Republican friends do. But the old hubris of the party in power believing they will never be out of power appears to be hitting the GOP as hard now as it hit the Dems in the early ’90s.

As one final bit of insult added to injury, according to an undisclosed “senior Republican senator” cited in The Washington Times, the removal of the right to filibuster over judicial nominees — and the subsequent gridlocking the Democrats will impose via retaliatory filibustering — would be used in an attempt to blame Democrats for the death of the Social Security Bill. This would be done in an attempt to gain the seats necessary in the 2006 midterms to block future filibusters of anything else.

The sad thing is that it will probably work.

Mike McLaughlin is a senior history major, secretary of the College Democrats and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].