The Nuclear Option, Part II

I got a fair amount of response to my previous post on this and thought I’d address some of the comments. The first is by maddmatt.

Really, when did the dem̢۪s attempt to remove 200 years of tradition, I must of missed that day.

Well okay maybe not 200 years of tradition, but back during the 1930’s FDR pulled his own nuclear option with his threats of packing the Supreme Court with justices friendly to his policies. Even though this option was not fully deployed it nevertheless had an effect in that the Supreme Court blinked first and irrevocably changed the nature and size of government in this country.

The next comment was by RiverRat,

You assert a reversal of position by the Republicans during the Clinton years. I have been unable to find support for your assertion with respect to filibusters. Holds, committee procedural blocks but no filibusters…ever!

Fortas was bipartisan, not a minority filibuster.

Clarify please, if you can

During Clinton’s term as President the Republicans blocked many of his judicial appointees. In fact, as I have documented on my blog, the blocking of judicial appointees has been something that has been getting more and more partisan. The Republicans were being partisan and blocking nominations. Now, they are on the other side of the table complaining about nominees being blocked. There is definitely an element of hypocrisy here.

The last comment is by mallarme who is referencing Kevin Drum and Mark Kleiman (never a good sign). The gist of the Drum/Kleiman view can be summarized thusly,

So, yes, most politicians lie and are hypocrites, but what the Republicans have done here is qualitatively different from what the Democrats did under Clinton. The debate isn̢۪t really about the filibuster. It̢۪s about preventing a cynical attempt by the majority party to consolidate power.

I’m shocked! Shocked I say! Policitians cynically consolidating power to change things on the judicial landscape…perhaps for years to come. Kind of like Drum and Kleiman’s patron saint FDR who, “cynically consolidated power” by undermining the notion of checks and balances? But maybe I’m just way too cynical (I gotta tell ya, the way Kevin and Mark can convince themselves that the Democrats are the good guys makes me laugh).

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Hal says:

    Yea, I guess we should stop lecturing those Shiites about the rights of the minority. Clearly, if you have the majority, you have no obligation to the minority. Might makes right.

  2. Lurking Observer says:

    So, Hal, how far does one go to protect the minority?

    I mean, by these lights, shouldn’t every vote require at least a supermajority? (BTW, ever wonder why it’s 60 votes and not 67? You might be interested in knowing who shifted the votes downward and why.)

    But, even then, the minority would be overwhelmed, wouldn’t it? Shouldn’t it be government by unanimity? Otherwise, every minority will be overruled eventually, and how will their voices be heard and their rights protected?

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    Yea, I guess we should stop lecturing those Shiites about the rights of the minority. Clearly, if you have the majority, you have no obligation to the minority. Might makes right.

    Where exactly did I say that minorities, be they racial, religious, political or otherwise do not have rights that should be protected? Let me see….uhhhh nowhere. Maybe Hal, you should work on that reading comprehension thing. Sheesh.

    If you read this post and my previous one you can see I have heaps of scorn for both sides of this issue. Both sides are full of hypocrisy and political posturing.

    BTW, ever wonder why it’s 60 votes and not 67? You might be interested in knowing who shifted the votes downward and why.)

    Geee, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess…..Democrats?

  4. Lurking Observer says:

    Ding, ding, ding!

    We have a winnah!

    It occurred in 1975, at the behest of the majority party of the day.

    Who might that be?

    This gives another hint

    The funny thing being that not only was it Walter Mondale who was helping to lead the charge, but a certain Senator from West Virginia who was the Majority Whip. Funny, innit?

    But why 60, you might ask? Perhaps it had something to do w/ the composition of the Senate at the time: 60-38-1-1.

    One guess as to who had 60 seats in the Senate at the time….

  5. Hal says:

    Wow, I would have thought the filibuster was far enough. And as to the specific number, who cares? It’s what the Senate voted on (a super majority vote, I might add). Instead, what we had is a show of force, threatening to cut off the ability of the minority – whatever the number – to put their foot down, and to remove this ability by violating the Senate’s own rules and preemptively declaring it to be unconstitutional.

    And as to your interpretation of what I said, Steve… All I got to say is that you’re a barrel of laughs. Clearly I was talking about a minority of Senators, not any specific group. Just as it would be a minority of whatever they will be called in the Iraqi government (if we ever get one).

    Yea, reading comprehension.

  6. Lurking Observer says:

    So, the filibuster is the last and only thing that prevents dictatorial rule by the majority? Is that what you’re saying Hal?

    But with the filibuster, everything’s hunky-dory?

    So, if the Senate is ever 61 Republicans, you’ll be comfortable w/ that? You won’t be concerned about the minority being trampled?

    Because, if not, then one has to wonder, again, why you’re not demanding a supermajority on everything? Is legislation so unimportant that the rights of the minority can be trampled there, to little concern?

    But why is it 60, and not 67? Is the margin from democracy to dictatorship so robust that it can survive falling to 60, but so narrow that falling below that means that Democrats will be gassed in the hills and slaughtered in the streets?

    (That is why you mentioned the Shi’ites, right? The oppression they suffered under Saddam?)

  7. Steve Verdon says:

    And as to your interpretation of what I said, Steve… All I got to say is that you’re a barrel of laughs. Clearly I was talking about a minority of Senators, not any specific group.

    A minority of senators is by definition a group. Sheesh.

    And LO is bringing up valid points. Why not supermajorities on every piece of legislation? You know the answer is because then hardly anything would get done in government.

    Oh, and yes, changing the requirement from 67 to 60 does weaken the requirement. This should be obvious to most people, but I guess not to those with severe partisan tunnel vision.