Friday, April 15, 2005

Let's be truthful about the filibuster

So the Washington Post is reporting today that Frist Likely to Push for Ban on Filibusters. This is bad news in the short term because it runs the risk of taking away the supermajority lever that the 44 Democratic Senators have on judicial appointments (not that they use it nearly enough).

The progressive blogosphere and Air America have going nuts about this change, and rightly so. The current threat that Democrats can filibuster a confirmation is all that stands between many of these awful nominees and the federal bench.

But the general tone of the protests is at best ignorant and at worst disengenuous. The argument they make against losing this rule is that it is "anti-democratic," that it eliminates "checks and balances that the founding fathers wanted." This simply isn't true.

First of all the rule wasn't created by the founding fathers. It was created by the Senate in 1806 and has been protested ever since. It is not "democratic;" it is anti-majority. And it was not designed to protect the interests of the "minority", it was designed to increase the power of each senator. Lyndon Johnson and many others before him used the filibuster for decades to prevent civil rights legislation from coming to a vote. The legislation had a majority of the votes for some time before it passed in the 1960s (once LBJ changed directions and made it happen).

Don't get me wrong, I don't want Frist to succeed. We need the filibuster right now, in this moment in history. And maybe our friends need to lie to keep it. But right here, in the confines of this blog, let's admit the truth: it's got to go eventually and someday when our guys are in power, we'll thank them.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post on the filibuster, and quite right about its abuses and lack of constitutional foundation. However, I think judicial nominations, as opposed to legislation, to warrant the filibuster regardless of who is in power -- James Madison or no. Mickey Kaus from the blog Kausfiles has a good discussion on this subject. Go to this link,, and scroll down to the post from Monday, April 11th, entitled "Anti-Nuclear Non-Activism."
-- Vince Marchand

snichols said...

Interesting point, Vince, as usual. I'll check out Klausfiles. I do think it's ironic (at best) that the subject on which they want to remove the filibuster is in this area of key advice and consent role where, when there's only one party in every branch there really is no balance of power without the filibuster.