Monday, May 23, 2005

To Filibuster or Not....

As I read the papers and hear the pundits on this issue, my mind keeps circling back to what seems obvious to me. Perhaps I am simply not sophisticated enough to understand all the fuss, but here's how it looks from here:

1. We have a senate and a congress made up of ELECTED officials. That is, (and please don't take this as an invitation to debate hanging chads or faulty voting machines) WE THE PEOPLE have chosen them.

2. There is, and pretty much always has been a MAJORITY and a MINORITY as a result of this process.

3. Pretty much by definition, when there are issues on which to vote, the MAJORITY wins.

4. BUT.... the minority seems to think that it isn't fair that the ELECTED MAJORITY, elected BY THE PEOPLE, should win. So their answer, instead of trying to gain the majority, is to try to prevent the Senate from even voting. Isn't that what the accusations have been in the past 2 presidential elections? Aren't these the same people who are complaining that their side hasn't been allowed to vote (a la Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, etc)?

5. Again, I'm sure it is just a case of me not being nearly intelligent enough to understand, but what it really looks like to those of us on the outside is "If we can't win, we aren't even going to play". I don't think this nation was founded on a principle of "If we aren't going to win, let's not let them vote".

6. I have recently done a bit of research into the history of the filibuster. Lest anyone accuse me of being partisan on this issue, let me share some of what I have learned:

---> The record for the longest individual speech goes to South Carolina's J. Strom Thurmond who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957. (source: http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Filibuster_Cloture.htm)
At the time, Thurmond was a Democrat (he became a republicam in 1964).

---> Joe Biden and Robert Byrd, Tom Harkin, Ted Kennedy, Joe Lieberman, Pat Leahy, Chuck Schumer and their erstwhile colleagues Lloyd Bentsen, and Tom Daschle have all vigorously opposed the use of the filibuster against judicial nominations. Mr. Schumer was for voting judicial nominations "up or down" without delay. Mr. Leahy flatly opposed a filibuster against Clarence Thomas's Supreme Court nomination: "The president and the nominee and all Americans deserve an up-or-down vote." Mr. Harkin believed "the filibuster rules are unconstitutional," Mr. Daschle declared that "democracy means majority rule, not minority gridlock," and Mr. Kennedy that "senators who believe in fairness will not let the minority of the Senate deny [the nominee] his vote by the entire Senate." But that was then, when Democrats controlled the Senate. Now, they are a frustrated minority and it is different. Mr. Leahy has voted against cloture to end filibusters 21 out of 26 times; Mr. Kennedy, 18 out of 23. Now all these Senators practice and defend the use of filibusters against judicial nominees.(source: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1392722/posts)

---> Republicans Bill Frist, Orrin Hatch, Don Nickles, Christopher Bond, and Richard Lugar all supported the filibuster at one time. Now all are opposed to it. (source: http://democrats.senate.gov/~dpc/pubs/108-1-199.html)

So it would seem that the filibuster is not something that people support and believe in because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO, as much as because it is the PARTISAN THING TO DO, depending on the situation. That in and of itself seems enough reason to rethink it's propriety.

I was not present when out founders penned and debated the constitution. None of us can know what was on their minds, except in the legacy they have left behind. I do however, find it hard to believe that they desired for us to come to the point where instead of dealing with difficult issues and resolving them, we ignore them until they go away.

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