A Rising Era of Partisanship

One of the side effects of the national movement toward two ideological political coalitions, rather than the traditional regional and ethnic structure of coalitions, is the perhaps inevitable decrease in bi-partisanship in Congress. Without liberal Republicans to work with liberal Democrats, and without conservative Democrats to work with conservative Republicans, are divisions in Congress are now, more than ever, drawn along party lines. The Ben Nelson's and Lincoln Chaffee's of the Senate are truly a minority.

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.

Tags: Republicans (all tags)



DEMS should have gone nuclear 4 years ago
only now when it affects their personal power are they willing to do something.

Millions of jobs lost, record levels of forclosures bankruptcies, poverty rising for four years in a row, 100's of thousands of Iraqi killed in a war for greater oil business profits for Haliburton, close to 30,000 seriously wounded, 1100 killed US soldiers in Iraq, a set of domestic policies worthy of the 14th century christian-taliban,

and now, only when it affects THIER personal power do they discuss messing things up.

by leschwartz 2004-12-13 10:33AM | 0 recs
One tree in a burning forest.
The senate rules on the judicial nomination process are a tactical, present day concern. The long term problem is that the "average" man is afraid of the world of the present, to say nothing of the future. He doesn't have a ph.D, he doesn't have a lot of savings, and hes getting scared. Do people act rationally when they are scared? No. They fall under the sway of demogogues like Rush Limbaugh et. al.

I for one would be for a massive welfare state, but it cannot work without a strong base of moral values in the society. The (intellectual) death of Christianity has left the West without a common language of morality. Europe spawned several modern evils as a result of that void: communism, consumerism, and naziism. We are recapitulating that dynamic.

Man cannot live on bread alone (social security, government healthcare, welfare jobs). In the spiritual void that is the democratic party, the obselete religious forms of the right win by default.

So as I look at an entire forest burning, I fail to care if Harry Reid can douse the fire on one tree. Even if he succeeds the raging fire will reconquer that tree eventually.

by Paul Goodman 2004-12-13 10:48AM | 0 recs
A Typically American View
America is virtually the only modern industrial nation where a majority of people think you have to be religious to be moral.

It's also quite false to blame Naziism on the "death of Christianity."  The Nazis were quite buddy-buddy with the German Catholic Church.

I do agree that we need to rearticulate a language of morality. Which is why I think Lakoff is so important. If Kerry had just listened to 1/4 of what Lakoff has to say about values, he'd be picking his cabinet today.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-12-13 11:10AM | 0 recs
Take the Reform Side
Following your recent thinking about reform: it seems likely that the Republicans will try to claim that they are "reforming" the filibuster out of existence.  The Dems in the Senate need to make sure that they are portraying the Republicans as corrupt power-grabbing Washington insiders -- declaring the filibuster unconstitutional, 50 voting themselves the power of 60, sheesh -- and portray themselves as reformers who are ready to throw the bastards out.
by conchis 2004-12-13 10:52AM | 0 recs
The Problem of Moderate Leadership
Reid's commments are indicative of the problem with moderate leadership. It's not rooted in deep ideological conviction that can be tapped for a moral argument when one is clearly called for.  This is a much bigger worry for me than the fact that Reid is from a Red state.
by Paul Rosenberg 2004-12-13 11:03AM | 0 recs
Unprepared Democrats
"The degree to which many Democrats are unprepared to deal with aggressive Republican partisanship is frequently obvious."  

I couldnt agree more.  Take social security for example.  You know two things about this political issue right now: (1) The Republicans are furiously working on their talking points and strategy; and (2) When they come up with them, the Republican effort will be very well coordinated.  Are the Democrats working on this?  If any strategy is conceived, will it be implemented in a coordinated fashion?  One thing that amazed me during the last campaign was that even after Kerry won the nomination, there seemed to be no effort to make sure that the Dems who appeared in the media were talking from the same script.  We need to do much much better.

As for the fillibuster, I am one of the few Democrats who doesnt really care about this.  While the Republicans think they will be in control forever, they are wrong.  Bush is going to have everything so fucked up by 2008, that we are going to control Congress and the White House.  If there is no fillibuster, the Democrats are going to get any judicial nominee they want.

The only way we lose the fillibuster fight is if the Democrats compromise so the Republicans get what they want without changing the rules.  Then we have the worst of both worlds, horribly conservative justices and the Republicans will still be able to fillibuster our nominees.

by Andy Katz 2004-12-13 11:18AM | 0 recs
What's the Right Way To Address This Issue?
Should Reid say something like: "The Republicans have one set of rules for themselves, and another for everybody else" ?

I.e. they change the rules for themselves, whenever it's to their personal advantage to do so.

Like with the "Indicted Leader" rule in the House? Or the Texas redistricting? Or Newt Gingrich and his 3 marriages. Or Bob Barr paying for his girlfriend's abortion. And so on.

Can't we link such stories together into a narrative that says "the Republicans don't play by the rules" or something like that?

by tgeraghty 2004-12-13 11:21AM | 0 recs
A Walkout and Press Conference
All Senate Dems should walk out of the Senate together and hold a press conference, wherein they tell thair states/consituents that:

  1.  Numerically, they are the majority of the country

  2.  Republican senators will not allow them to have a say in their own government.

They should then say to Americans represented by Repubican senators that:

  1.  The American Revolution was fought to wrest control away from a tyrannical majority, on behalf of the people who deserved representation.

  2.  Unquestioned support for one party (republicans) will lead to the destruction of our democratic system and the end of popular representation in America.  One-sided government is bound to be corrupt government.
by Pachacutec 2004-12-13 11:31AM | 0 recs
consequences for GOP Senators
Doesn't this put all the heat on a small group of Republicans?

Won't there be about eight Republicans that get lobbied extensively on each nominee?

Having filibusters keeps the heat on the Dems. Not having filibusters keeps the hear on Chafee, Snowe, Collins, Specter, G. Smith, McCain, Lugar and Hagel.

by Carl Nyberg 2004-12-13 11:33AM | 0 recs
My opinion of Reid just rose a bit
Although that may not have been the most helpful thing to say, it is quite clear he is not a p*ssy.  Thank god.  If the Republicans are going to play dirty we need to be able to respond agressively.  Reid may be pro-life, but he is looking to be a strong Minority Leader, which we definately needed.

And as for concerns of him coming from a "red" state, I am confident Nevada is coming our way.

by Skaje 2004-12-13 01:11PM | 0 recs
Re: My opinion of Reid just rose a bit
If NV is indeed becoming more Democratic (not at all clear; 2006 is not shaping up as a good year for us), it'll be in large part due to Reid.

I'm sure he'll get due thanks from the folks here, who seem to think that the appropriate activism for fighting Bush is to pounce all over everything Reid says -- and to speak about him in condescending terms.

The Republicans win in part because they are unified; they don't spend their time attacking their own leaders.

They attack ours. I'd like to see more attention here to returning the favor.

by desmoulins 2004-12-13 08:43PM | 0 recs
The Reps will rue the day they get rid of the filibuster.  When we are back in power, they'll wish they still had it.
by alhill 2004-12-14 09:19AM | 0 recs


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