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January 28, 2006

More Filibuster

I think Angelica misuses my argument here because, in point of fact, I've little affection for the filibuster and would be perfectly happy to watch it die. My reasons against using it on Alito are political. Nevertheless, her post arguing for a filibuster struck me as rather convincing. If anyone could persuade me that Democrats had done the spadework and were prepared to corral and control the post-nuclear option media storm, I'd likely be convinced. As it is, watching Kerry offer to cry filibuster and let loose the dogs of procedural delay from #@$%# Switzerland has sort of killed my confidence. Lord knows I could be wrong, though.

January 28, 2006 | Permalink

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I think the fact that you're missing is that Kerry was in Switzerland for the World Economic Summmit. He was working, representing our country, not taking an overpriced ski weekend. Pretty much every media source is skipping over this point.

Posted by: Grady | Jan 28, 2006 3:19:19 PM

Kerry is not our country's representative. And he wasn't working -- his job is in the Senate, not in Davos. I hold no grudge against him for being there, but he knew when Alito would come up, if he thought it an epochal fight, he should have been here to lead it. Optics are optics, after his last campaign, he should know that.

Posted by: Ezra | Jan 28, 2006 3:34:53 PM

I sense that Ezra is opposed in principle to the filibuster, and, in prinicple, I agree that it is very undemocratic and has been used for some evil purposes along the way.

On the other hand, the Senate is suppossed to be a deliberative body, a brake against the occasional excesses of democracy, and plays a clearly defined role in the Constitution as a check on the Executive - the advise and consent role.

A better filibuster would allow extended debate only if some evidence of wide participation by Senators were offered - not just a few obstinate people trying to prevent action. A even better filibuster would perhaps only apply to the advise and consent role, since it is a key underpinning of the checks and balances intended by the very wise founders. I'd hope that these 'better' filibusters could be preserved.

But we have what we have. And I don't think that the rules on filibusters should be changed to achieve some particular law or appointment. This is contrary to the deliberate action role intended for the Senate.

In the calm of adapting the Senate rules to modern circumstances, I'd support the better filibuster, or even eliminating the filibuster entirely. But not in the heat of battle on a particular issue. We have the filibuster in the rules of the Senate, and if the balance of votes to approve an appointment is close to 2/3 v 1/3, I'd use that filibuster tool vigorously, even if it resulted in the Republican's nuclear option of elminating the filibuster for confirmations being deployed and the filibuster becoming a thing of history. I note that that the Republican nuclear option to bypass filibusters only applies to confirmations, not legislation, which is exactly backward to my mind.

It makes no sense to me to withhold use of the filibuster on Alito in the vain hope of preserving it for 'something more important'. This appointment is key to curbing the excessive ambitions of a president and party that wants to dramatically change the constitutional balance of powers.

I'm only pissed that the Dems didn't organize for this as soon as Alito's views became known, and more than pissed that the Dems can't maintain party unity on this key issue. As I've said before recently, the Dems are not ready to be a majority party and actually govern, as shown by this pitiful performance on Alito (and bankruptcy et al).

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Jan 28, 2006 4:52:34 PM

If anyone could persuade me that Democrats had done the spadework and were prepared to corral and control the post-nuclear option media storm, I'd likely be convinced.
I'll be honest with you. Asking for anything less than a timid and hesitant execution with this bunch is pretty futile. Still, I think fighting is better than not fighting. A big part of our problem is how we've become used to not fighting. This issue is as good as any to start again.

Posted by: battlepanda | Jan 28, 2006 5:47:23 PM

I don't know that we're simply not fighting, that seems wrong to me. We closed down the Senate a month or two ago, we overturned Davis-Bacon, we've had remarkable caucus cohesion, Pelosi backed up Murtha, and on, and on. Is there any definition of fighting beneath filibustering? Alito's bad, but to remain on our imagery, it's far worse to pick a fight you'll lose badly than not fight at all.

Posted by: Ezra | Jan 28, 2006 5:54:05 PM

Hey I think the idea of a one day fillibuster is interesting.

Get all the Dems together, talk about why Alito is bad for the country, let the media stew over it all, stop the limelight from the president, then, just about when the republicans are ready to go nuclear, the dems yield the floor.

Tactical politics at its best . . .

Posted by: Tony | Jan 28, 2006 6:44:19 PM

Alito's bad, but to remain on our imagery, it's far worse to pick a fight you'll lose badly than not fight at all.

I wouldn't agree in this case. I think the Dems need to call on the "nuclear option". If the Republicans get rid of the filibuster, it will come back to bite them someday when they don't have the majority. But regardless, the filibuster has no power if the Democrats will use it only when the Republicans say it's ok.

Posted by: Chris Howard | Jan 28, 2006 6:45:38 PM

"it's far worse to pick a fight you'll lose badly than not fight at all."

Gee, Ezra - I'm glad you weren't alive and wielding any influence at the outset of the civil rights movement. That Rosa Parks, what a loser...

Posted by: zeke | Jan 28, 2006 6:51:56 PM

Zeke proves my point quite nicely, thanks. The civil rights movement backed off from many potential Rosa Parks (see, for instance, Claudette Colvin), realizing the behavior, background, or persona of the potential target would ensure a damaging loss. Only when they believed they would win, as they did with Parks, did they engage. By that time, they thought they'd found the right person, had enough support to sustain a boycott, and had created the sort of circumstances and storyline that would allow them to triumph in the coming media firestorm.

Now, you may think the Democrats have done that. I don't, but there's room for disagreement. Pretending that the NAACP simply charged into every high profile, uphill battle they saw, however, is historically inaccurate. And attempting to paint me as anti-Rosa Parks is a bit beyond the pale.

Posted by: Ezra | Jan 28, 2006 7:30:22 PM

In fairness Ezra, I don't think its fair to characterize him as trying to paint you as anti-Rosa Parks.

Posted by: Jedmunds | Jan 28, 2006 7:54:00 PM

I'd use that filibuster tool vigorously, even if it resulted in the Republican's nuclear option of elminating the filibuster for confirmations being deployed and the filibuster becoming a thing of history.

Don't forget that they'll put the filibuster right back just before they lose control. Well, that or the whole Reichstag Fire option...

Posted by: tatere | Jan 28, 2006 7:54:49 PM

Ezra,

Nobody's trying to paint you as anti-Rosa Parks. But I'm not being historically inaccurate when I assert that many risks were taken, and many setbacks incurred, before critical mass was achieved in the civil rights movement.

My point, the brevity of which may have allowed you to misconstrue it to your advantage, is that losing a battle is not the same as losing the war. And some battles are worth fighting on the merits, even if defeat looks inevitable.

Even if one looks at the battle in merely tactical terms, the Democrats will look far better for having filibustered than for voting Yes on cloture only to vote No on confirmation. In the latter case, they are only accentuating their marginal status and demonstrating their reluctance to take a real stand on principle. Those are the "optics" I'm concerned about...

Will you be singing the same tune once Alito is on the court, and the next nomination comes along? Will you be saying "Well, Luttig may be bad, but if we filibuster him Bush may send up an even worse nomination."?

Tactical retreats are only effective if, at some point, a line is drawn and a stand is taken. Otherwise, they are tantamount to surrender.


Posted by: zeke | Jan 28, 2006 8:24:08 PM

Then let's have the argument over the merits and political ramifications of Alito, not Rosa Parks. I, after all, didn't bring her up. I'm fully willing to be convinced on Alito (that, after all, was the point of my post), but that's an argument that needs to be made on its own merits, not through invocations of great civil rights leaders.

And I still think Kerry a douche.

Posted by: Ezra | Jan 29, 2006 2:27:05 AM

Ezra,
so let me get this straight. On your playground you prefer not to argue by analogy, but ad hominem attacks are fine (at least where Senator Kerry is concerned.) Fine. But I think I'll reserve my ad hominem attacks for trolls like Captain Toke, not war heroes and public servants like Kerry.

And just to clarify, while I vehemently disagree with you on this particular topic, and was therefore moved to criticize your post, I am in agreement with you 90% of the time. I'll try to chime in with a "job well done" next time you post on health care or some other topic where we are in accord.

Zeke-crest out...

Posted by: zeke | Jan 29, 2006 3:00:19 AM

Sure, but I didn't argue by ad hominem. I mounted a case explaining what I thought Kerry had done wrong. And then, k=kater, I jokingly signed off by calling him a douche. Which I kinda think he is. But folks can buy my argument or not. My point to you wasn't that analogies are invalid, but that invalid analogies that attempt to make the point by placing me on the wrong side of Rosa Parks are. And I explained why the analogy doesn't work. As you say, we generally agree and I most always like your comments, but aq spat here and there is restorative.

Posted by: Ezra | Jan 29, 2006 11:16:19 AM

Seriously though, we need to get rid of Davos and any conference of relevance outside the US. Senators should stay put in their home-states, and not even visit DC, so they can be seen as "down home" or whatever. We should probably just issue an outright ban on all travel to Switzerland just to be sure.

I'm sorry, xenophobia and parochialism make me sick. Spreading memes of "he said it in some dirty elitist foreign place so it's stupid" only because "OTHER people feel that way, I would certainly never feel that way of course" is below any useful discourse.

Besides, you're all too stuck in the present moment to get the point. If Kerry wants to run for pres in 2008, you know what he will do to finish off Hillary? Right after the Roberts court strikes down Roe v Wade, he's going to say "well, I was there to filibuster Alito. where were you?"

Posted by: Tony Vila | Jan 31, 2006 4:00:58 PM

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Posted by: judy | Sep 29, 2007 10:16:15 AM

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