Friday, March 18, 2005

about this Senate filibuster thing. . .(UPDATED)

The blogosphere is alive these days with talk of the "Constitutional" option to change over 200 years of Senate rules governing debate procedures within that body of government. Of course, by calling it the "Constitutional" option, you already know on which side of the debate I fall. The other monicker--the "nuclear" option--is how the left is calling the conservative's move to make a 41-person plurality a ruling force in the Senate a thing of the past. I'll let you decide how you want to describe this issue--although I will say this: neither title is even close to correct.

Earlier this week, leading Dem Senators participated in a rally. The entire reason for the gathering was "discussion" of the Senate filibuster. And, as you might imagine, there was all sorts of press covering the event. And, I gotta tell you, IF you took these esteemed Senators at their word, you would think that the GOP--including the President--has gone mad Mad MAD with power!

But the reality is something significantly short of that. Let's take a quick walk through this issue, just to put it in terms of facts rather than agenda:

THE RULE: Filibuster has supposedly been on the books of Senate procedure for 217 years (a number quoted by Harry Reid yesterday). But "the book" that is referred to here is not "the Constitution"--or at least not as clearly is it written in that venerable document as the press and the Dems would have you believe. The Constitution, in Art. 1, section 5, merely authorizes the Senate to make its rules of procedure. Those rules (go here to see for yourself) don't even USE the word "filibuster", although it describes (as part of rule IV and rules XXII) a process by which debate on a certain topic can be ceaseless within the confines of a Senate session. In fact, it is important to me to note that rule XXII refers to the action of "filibuster" only by talking about the means to end it, that being "cloture" (which IS actually used in the text).

But to the point: this debate on "filibuster" is about one of two things. Either it's about the judges themselves or it is about the sanctity of the rules of the Senate. Since NONE of the Dem leadership would dare tell you that they are taking this stand "about the judges" (in fact, most of them say exactly the opposite), then their whining to the media MUST be about the rules of the Senate. . .which, if I'm not mistaken, is an animal that THEY (as Senators) help/helped create and that they all knew full-well was in place when they decided to run for the Senate. Really, how appealing is it to the average American that these aristocrats are boo-hooing on the evening news about the rules of the game that taxpayer dollars allow them to play?

Hat tip to several sources, including my brother who assembled some of the talking points for this post.

UPDATE: I had read the Rules of the Senate, and thought to myself "how do 51 Senators get beyond the provisions of Rule V and Rule XXII to bring "majority rules" to the filibuster issue? For an exhaustive answer, go here. (I highly encourage you to do so, as you get to look at some great moments in the young Senate terms for both Kennedy and Byrd. . .my, how their tune has changed!) If you don't have that kind of time, here is the concluding paragraph:

"Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution empowers the Senate to “determine the Rule of its Proceedings.” In 1917 and on many occasions since 1917, the Senate has debated whether this
constitutional rulemaking power allows a simple majority to alter the Senate’s Standing Rules at will. At least four times, changes to the Senate Standing Rules were influenced by attempts to use the constitutional option. And throughout Senate history, a simple majority has changed Senate procedures governing debate by setting precedents or adopting Standing Orders that altered the operation of the Standing Rules without amending their actual text. Over two
centuries, the Senate’s constitutional rulemaking power has been exercised in a variety of ways to change Senate procedures. As Senate parliamentary process further evolves, this power plainly will be exercised again. At issue is when, how, and to what effect."


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