Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Filibuster: Should it Stay or Should it Go?

Long-time political reporter/columnist Robert Novak wrote an excellent piece about the history of the filibuster, and how it has been alternatively praised and reviled by many. I have been undecided about the whether Senate Republicans should 'go nuclear' by using a parliamentary procedure to change Senate rules to require only a majority vote on judicial appointments, but now am leaning in support of such a change.

For sure, changing the filibuster rules would favor the majority party over the minority, and over time will enable whichever party is in control to "pack the courts" with judges they feel are best suited for the job, regardless of what the minority party thinks about it. But I think that the Constitution is pretty clear about when a so-called "super majority" vote should be used, and judicial appointments aren't one of them. In fact, if one is to use that argument, that only super majority votes specifically called for in the Constitution should be observed, then the filibuster should be done away with altogether, not just for judicial appointments.

Novak's comments about Robert Byrd's use of parliamentary procedures to change or amend Senate rules when it suited his purposes certainly brings a new angle to the argument currently being used by Democrats in the Senate who oppose the rule change regarding the filibuster. They argue that elimination of the filibuster would impose 'tyranny of the majority', yet to my thinking, the USE of the filibuster imposes the tyranny of the minority.

Elimination of the filibuster rule poses risks both to both parties, but it is a risk I am reluctantly willing to take. It simply means that attaining and holding a majority in both houses of Congress will be even more critical than it ever was.

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