Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Filibuster

An editorial by Dick Morris has me wondering. His suggestion is that Senate Republicans do not have to "go nuclear" on the judicial filibusters, and that instead they should proceed by actually following the filibuster rule as is. What would that mean?

It seems to me that the filibuster, technically, amounts to the Senate voting to not end debate. That is, there is a matter before the Senate, such as, to consent to the nomination of a Judge. Before voting on that matter the Senate has a debate, and those for and against consenting to the nomination get to state their cases. At some point debate ends and the vote is taken. But, the vote cannot be taken until the Senate votes to end debate. The filibuster, in the case at hand, amounts to the Democrats in the Senate preventing a positive vote on the motion to end debate and vote on the motion to consent to the judicial appointment.

I want to suggest that public debate on the Senate floor is good, and I'll bet you agree. Unfortunately, the Senate is not actually debating the question at hand. Instead the Senate is spending a lot of time discussing its rules. The Senate's constitutional responsibility is, at this point, being effectively hidden from public view. The Senate should be debating the pros and cons to consenting to each of President Bush's judicial appointments. And, then, the Senate should vote to consent or not.

I think Morris is correct. If the Senate Republican leadership follows what one would think would be the principles embodied it the Senate's constitutional responsibility, there will be a debate on the merits of each appointment. If the Democrats decide to adopt the tactic of not ending debate, just how long do you think it will take before the public tires of what inevitably will become the endless repitition of hot air?

What I wonder about is why do we get to the point in our political system where it is decided that rules will be softened, that rules will be weakened relative to appropriate principles and process? Why not simply debate until the Senate votes to end debate and then vote? The responsibility of our representatives is to carefully consider the pros and cons of every issue, and the public debate on the Senate floor is a marvelous mechanism for such careful and open consideration. I personally want to hear both Republicans and Democrats debate the merits of consenting to Justice Brown's appointment. I want each and every Senator to be publicly on record explaining why they vote as they do. I want each and every Senator to publicly speak on the floor of the Senate while the cameras are on and recording their thoughts and principles as they themselves choose to state them. Why have the principles and rules been weakened and/or changed so that the Senators are seemingly being allowed to hide their views from the public debate and public scrutiny?

I seems to me that where we are right now with our political system does not serve our liberty well.

1 comment:

James Sayno said...

I have my flippant and cynical moments - so pardon this next comment:

The reason why our politicians will not let us know where they stand is because of simple physics. If one is physically located in a defined space, one cannot be somewhere else simultaneously. So once a position is asserted, all the other positions are given up until one moves.

This brings up the problem of tracking. If I discover one's definite position, I will be able to track movement to another position in the future.

Hence, the ability to change positions without notice is severely limited by taking a position in the first place.