Chris's Rants

Friday, May 20, 2005

You learn something every day

Here's a tidbit I didn't know. Apparently, the Rethuglicans have already broken the Senate rules to advance their agenda of seating theocratic evangelical jurists to the bench. The reason that in the 214 years of Senate history, that a judicial nominee has never been denied an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate is because previous majorities abided by the rules of the Senate.

Think Progress has the details.
How did these judicial nominees even get to the Senate floor? Before a judicial nominee ever reaches the floor, he or she must pass through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rule IV of the Senate Judiciary Committee states:

The Chairman shall entertain a non-debatable motion to bring a matter before the Committee to a vote. If there is objection to bring the matter to a vote without further debate, a rollcall vote of the Committee shall be taken, and debate shall be terminated if the motion to bring the matter to a vote without further debate passes with ten votes in the affirmative, one of which must be cast by the minority.

In other words, debate on a judicial nominee can end only if a rollcall vote obtains at least one vote from the minority party. Proposed by Republicans and enacted in 1979, Rule IV has been upheld for 24 years and by five different chairmen of both parties.

In 1997, when Clinton’s nominee for assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Department of Justice, Bill Lann Lee, came to a floor vote, Senator Hatch said:

Rule IV of the Judiciary Committee rules effectively establishes a committee filibuster right… Absent the consent of a minority member of the Committee, a matter may not be brought to a vote.

On February 27, 2003, then-Chairman Orrin Hatch threw this rule out the window and employed his own mini-nuclear option. When faced with upholding this rule during the committee hearing for Jeffrey Sutton, Deborah Cook and John Roberts (three controversial circuit court nominees), Hatch went against his own previous statement, overrode the rule, and said to the minority: “[Y]ou have no right to continue a filibuster in this committee.” The nominations moved out of committee, paving the path for the nominees currently being debated on the Senate floor, Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen, to clear the Committee by a strictly party-line vote.
These people have no shame.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that this little factoid has been notably absent in the press coverage propaganda.

I suppose that the only positive in all of this is that by over-reaching, the Republicans will feel the wrath of the electorate in the 2006 mid-term elections. However, the damage done before then may be too great if Dubya manages to seat a strict constitutionalist activist judge or two on the SCOTUS.


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