May 13, 2005

The end of democracy as we know it.

The attempt by the Republicans to subvert long established congressional proceedure in order to deny the minority their only means to block radical right judicial nominees is heating up. This is and will continue to be a big story, with the usual avalanches of misinformation, lies, and inaccurate stats, being spewed to try to make this assault on democracy seem reasonable.

But though the noise is loud and constant from both sides, few people in the public are even aware of what's being discussed. So as a service, here is a primer on what would happen were the Republicans to actually attempt this "nuclear option."

The key in all of this is the difference between a simple majority, or 51 votes in the senate, and a so-called "super-majority", or a 2/3 majority required to approve treaties, and other measures, including invoking cloture, which ends all debate. To do this has always required a "super-majority" or 2/3 vote.

This has been an established rule to protect the rights of the minority party, whomever they may be. A filibuster is the last resort of the minority blocking action in the Senate. The Republicans currently are not able to muster a 2/3 majority in order to pass cloture and end debate. Though they hold complete and utter power in all three branches of government and the economy, they are fighting mad that the minority still reserves the right to use this tiny thread left them with which to oppose the majority.

The Republicans are not concerned with the disasterous precedent this would set. They are feigning outrage and risking a lot of political capital in order to crush this last speck of opposition in their path. And all in order to put in place only FIVE of their most radical judicial nominees out of hundreds already confirmed. It is a bully tactic simply for the purpose of exerting total control.

The "nuclear option" would be set in motion when a judicial nominee is brought to the floor by Republican majority leader, Bill Frist. Frist would then make a point of order and argue that the advice and consent clause of the constitution requires that the senate have an up or down vote on the nomination.

This is of course highly debatable, and flies in the face of Senate history. This point of order is made to the president of the Senate, who happens to be everyone's pal, Dick Cheney. Cheney, would agree with this point of order and thereby rule that this requires that the nominee be brought to a vote.

Under the rules of the senate, this ruling could then be appealed to the Senate, enabling the Senate to approve or disapprove it. The Democrats would assuredly attempt to do so.

But as soon as the Democrats appealed the ruling, Frist would then move to table the appeal. A vote to table the appeal only requires a simple majority, one which the Republicans could easily muster. And furthermore, it's not subject to filibuster itself. If this motion to table the appeal succeeds, then the Vice-President's ruling would stand, and the Democrats would be procedurally prevented from employing the filibuster.

The Republican nominee would then immediately be brought up for a vote on the Senate floor and pass with a simple majority of Republicans. And they could repeat the process for as many nominees as they wished.

By this maneuver, the Republicans would effectively eliminate any minority voice and ram through every single Bush nominee while the Democrats could only stand impotently by. They'd acheive this by perverting a well established Senate rule, a power grab which they would achieve by a procedural trick which evades a super-majority vote.

This is the simplest scenario, but gives you an idea of how they hope to subvert our system of checks and balances and resort to such an extreme measure in order to confirm only FIVE of their most radical nominees out of the hundreds of nominees which have already been confirmed. They are doing this simply to ensure that EVERY one of Bush's nominees are assured of confirmation. Nothing short of total victory is acceptible to the Republicans.

The arguments for this measure are typically flawed and deceptive. There is much more to this that can be gone into here, but it's clear that the right to filibuster is well-established and has been depended upon and defended by both parties.

Auth nails it. We're up against rampant abuse of power. And some Dems still say we shouldn't complain or "bash" these people so much??


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