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March 15, 2005
Harry's Hysterics

Senator Harry Reid released a statement on the Capitol steps this afternoon that completely destroys any pretense that the Senate Minority Leader ever intended to work towards any reasonable accommodation with the GOP majority. Not only did Reid overreact to the ongoing debate over the proposed rule change for judicial nominations by threatening to shut the entire Senate down while the nation is at war and threatened by attack, but the statement itself is so inaccurate and historically bankrupt that it removes whatever confidence remained in his ability to lead in a rational manner.

Reid starts off by completely misinterpreting the intent of the Constitution's framers:

Our Constitution provides for checks and balances so that no one person in power, so that no one political party can hold total control over the course of our nation.

Absolutely untrue, at least in terms of political parties. First, the founders didn't give much thought to parties at all, and they didn't necessarily presume that national politics would evolve into a two-party system. In any case, the Constitution guarantees that no one branch of government will hold total control over the government. If the people choose to elect people of mostly one party for the two electoral branches, then it should be obvious to even Harry Reid that the party will control the two branches.

If any Senator has such a poor understanding of the Constitution, his state should be ashamed to have sent him to Washington. That the Senate Democrats made such man their leader either demonstrates their lack of talent or their lack of discretion.

But now, in order to break down the separation of powers and ram through their appointees to the judicial branch, President Bush and the Republican leadership want to eliminate a two-hundred-year-old American rule saying that every member of the Senate can rise to say their piece and speak on behalf of the people that sent them here.

At least Reid knew better than to claim that filibusters have a Constitutional basis. They don't; unrestricted debate and cloture simply exist as self-imposed rules, and have been changed many times in the past. Robert Byrd changed the filibuster rules four times over twenty years, as John Cornyn pointed out last week. It has nothing to do with separation of powers for the Senate majority to change the Senate's rules. The change also doesn't eliminate debate on judicial nominations -- it removes the ability for 40 Senators to extend the debate into eternity. Claiming otherwise is nothing short of hysterical.

The fact is that this President has a better record of having his judicial nominees approved than any President in the past twenty-five years. Only ten of 214 nominations have been turned down.

They have not been "turned down"; the Democrats refused to allow a vote, knowing that they would get confirmed. If they had been at risk of getting turned down, the Democrats would have loved to allowed an up-or-down vote. The Democrats, led by Reid's predecessor Tom Daschle, successfully filibustered judicial nominations for the first time in American history.

So it is clear that this attempt to strip away these important checks and balances is not about judges. It is about the desire for absolute power.

Since when has majority rule amounted to "absolute power"? Only since Democrats lost their absolute grip on Congress twelve years ago.

Presidents and parties have grown drunk with power before. Two Presidents of my own party --Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt-- began their second terms of office with majorities in Congress and then tried to change the rules governing judges so that they could stack the court with those who would do their bidding. They were wrong to try to change our basic American rules -- and Americans, and Senators of both parties, stood up to tell them so.

They stood up and voted the attempts down, Senator. They represented the majority view which you just got done disparaging. Presidents nominating judges for open positions or new positions approved by Congress doesn't amount to "court stacking" in the FDR sense, who tried to expand the Supreme Court to 13 justices in order to bypass a hostile court. Bush won the presidency, and with that election comes the responsibility and the privilege of nominating judges. It's right in the same Constitution that Reid claims to defend and obviously has studied as well as Justice Clarence Thomas' written opinions over the past decade.

It would mean that the U.S. Senate becomes merely a rubber stamp for the Executive Branch. It would mean that one political party --be it Republicans today or Democrats tomorrow-- gets to have all the say. It would mean that one man, sitting in the White House, has the practical ability to personally hand out lifetime jobs to judges whose rulings can last forever.

That's not how America works.

It doesn't make the Senate a rubber stamp. It means that the majority in the Senate can approve or deny confirmation to judges nominated by the executive -- which is exactly what the Constitution demands.

Here, in America, the people rule -- and all the people have a voice.

We pledge allegiance to one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. Not liberty and justice for whoever may be in the majority of the moment Liberty and justice for all . In America, everyone gets their say and their due.

All the people used their voice in the election, and they elected a Republican president and a Republican majority in the Senate. That would indicate that the Republicans have a mandate from the people to approve Bush's nominees to the judiciary, not that Democrats have a mandate to clog the works with unprecedented filibusters. Given that the Senate only requires a simple majority to change its rules and that judicial filibusters played a major role in the election, it can also be argued that the people gave a mandate to the GOP to change the filibuster rule regarding judicial nominations.

Today, we say to the American people: if you believe in liberty and in limited government, set aside your partisan views and oppose this arrogant abuse of power.

If we believe in representative democracy and the Constitution, then we understand that this is no abuse of power -- it's an end to an abuse of parliamentary procedure by a minority intent on thwarting the clearly expressed will of the people at the ballot box. If Harry Reid doesn't believe in the Constitution and representative democracy, then he should find another line of work.

UPDATE and BUMP, 22:35 CT: For a more light-hearted take on this subject, be sure to check out Radioblogger's poll on Harry Reid's voice. I voted for Underdog ...

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 15, 2005 10:52 PM

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» Nuke 'em! from OKIE on the LAM - In LA
Usually I reserve that euphemism for countries, regimes or neighbors that I really despise, but this time I am talking about the Senate cloture rule that currently requires a super-majority of 61 Senators to get a judicial nominee an up-or-down vote. T... [Read More]

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» It's pretty sad, the gyrations the Democrats are going through to preserve their ability to filibuster Bush's judicial nominations... from ThoughtsOnline
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» Make them do it from Don Singleton
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