Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.
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Monday, May 23, 2005
A step back
For some readers (like my mom), this blog seems to be the sole source of information/news/commentary on the detailed politics that doesn't get reported on CNN and the nightly news. So, for those of you in that category (or possibly just you, mom), here's a recap of the filibuster situation:
- The president nominates people to be judges at all levels, including the Supreme Court, the Circuit Courts just below the Supreme Court, and the federal courts below that. The Senate's constitutional role is to provide "advice and consent" on the president's nominees, meaning they have to be confirmed by a committee and then by the full Senate vote. - Bush has made something like 200 judicial nominations in the course of his presidency that have been confirmed with no impediment from Democrats - 7 nominees, however, have been judged by Democrats as being incapable of being impartial, non-partisan, fair judges. The Democrats have "filibustered" these nominees. The filibuster is a provision in the Constitution that allows any senator to stall a vote on legislation or confirmation just by refusing to stop talking. That's right - they talk and talk and talk some more and only a vote of 60 or more Senators can end the filibuster. Since Republicans only have 55 senators, the Democrats have been able to successfully filibuster these 7 nominees. - Republicans, led by majority leader Bill First (a 2008 Republican presidential front-runner), believe it is within their power (due to a bunch of Senate rules) to declare, by simple majority vote, the filibuster illegal specifically for judicial nominees (they want to keep it for legislation). They have threatened to invoke this so-called "nuclear option" if Democrats don't give up on their filibuster. - Democrats have threatened to "shut down" the Senate if Republicans do away with the judicial filibuster, which has been around for 200+ years - The problem is that there are 5 or so senators on each side that aren't 100% into what their party is doing. A few Republicans are wary to be seen as changing the rules of the Senate when it suits their interests. And a few Democrats don't want to be seen as stalling progress and preventing the government from doing real work.
So we're at somewhat of an impasse, and it will all come to a head tomorrow when Frist decides whether or not to invoke the nuclear option, which he would do by asking for a ruling from Dick Cheney as to whether or not filibustering a judicial nomination is a violation of the rules. Cheney would then put it to a majority vote, where the Republicans would be on the line.