A Rising Era of Partisanship
by Chris Bowers, Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 10:16:53 AM EST
Considering this, it is not surprising to see Republicans preparing to eliminate the filibuster in judicial confirmations:At issue is a seldom-used, complicated and highly controversial parliamentary maneuver in which Republicans could seek a ruling from the chamber's presiding officer, presumably Vice President Cheney, that filibusters against judicial nominees are unconstitutional. Under this procedure, it would take only a simple majority or 51 votes to uphold the ruling -- far easier for the 55-member GOP majority to get than the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster or the 67 votes needed to change the rules under normal procedures.
It would then take only 51 votes to confirm a nominee, ensuring approval of most if not all of Bush's choices.
Senate GOP leaders say no final decision has been reached on whether to use this maneuver (which they prefer to call the "constitutional option") and, if so, when. But they have signaled they may do so next year, either shortly after the new Congress convenes in early January or -- more likely, some Republicans say -- after Democrats mount a filibuster against another judicial nominee.This is going to happen--Republicans already have talking points and a strategy in place. Harry Reid, a master of Senate rules, plans to respond, but he desperately needs to work on his talking points: "If they, for whatever reason, decide to do this, it's not only wrong, they will rue the day they did it, because we will do whatever we can do to strike back," incoming Senate Democratic leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said last week. "I know procedures around here. And I know that there will still be Senate business conducted. But I will, for lack of a better word, screw things up." While Republicans are planning to use a so-called "constitutional option" at the moment that will guarantee the highest media coverage, Democrats are vowing to "screw things up." No wonder we have done so well in elections recently. The degree to which many Democrats are unprepared to deal with aggressive Republican partisanship is frequently obvious.