April 07, 2005

Harry Reid Gets in Touch

Quoth he:

Dear Joy,

Today I stood in front of the Supreme Court and collected more than 1 million petitions from people all across America. Standing there, I heard your voices urging the Senate to reject any attempt to do away with the system of checks and balances our founding fathers created to protect the rights and voices of all Americans.

I want to say thank you for standing up and lending your voice to this debate.

Republicans want to go "nuclear" and turn the Senate into a rubber stamp for President Bush. They want to silence Senate Democrats -- the one remaining check on President Bush's power. If they can do away with debate in the Senate, they can get whatever they want -- right-wing Supreme Court Justices, Social Security privatization, and tax breaks for the wealthy that will plunge us deeper in debt.

But Senate Democrats are going to fight them every step of the way. And this fight will be different than any other fight in the history of the Senate -- because it will include you.

The Republicans are arrogant with power. If they don't like the rules, they break them. If they don't like someone standing in their way, they attack them. We have some Republicans in the Senate that are considering throwing out 200 years of Senate history in order to pack the courts with right wing judges. And we have a Republican Leader in the House of Representatives who attacks judges who don't agree with him and corrupts our government by running roughshod over the ethics committee.

It's a complete abuse of power by the Republicans and if they can get away with this on judges, they will get away with this on legislation like Social Security too. There is no distinction.

This is about more than a few unqualified judges, this is about protecting the rights of disabled Americans to work, the rights of minorities to vote, the rights of every American to have clean air, safe drinking water and be heard in Washington.

Thank you,

Harry Reid

Is that the cutest thing you've ever read, or what?

Posted by Attila at April 7, 2005 11:49 AM

My favorite is: "The Republicans are arrogant with power."

Posted by: Christiana Ellis at April 7, 2005 12:49 PM

He's right. It's a shame. First the Democrats threw out 200 years of approving judges, and that was bad enough. But this? Just too much. :P

Posted by: Michael at April 7, 2005 12:56 PM

"Advise and consent" became "obstruct and dissent" once the Democrats lost power, Hairy Reed-speak aside. Court nominees are not supposed to take a supermajority to confirm. And "fillibuster" is supposed to mean "fillibuster". Make the damn windbags actually pontificate for hours on end, not just threaten to.

Speaking of being "arrogant with power", perhaps the Republicans could increase the size of the SC like FDR did, so they can "pack the court with right wing judges".

Yeah! There's "arrogant with power" for ya.

Posted by: Desert Cat at April 7, 2005 05:42 PM

"Unqualified judges" = justices who won't rubber-stamp liberal social engineering. Eg, Janice Rogers Brown, blackballed because on the Cal Supreme Ct she upheld Prop 209 & failed to find a 'right' to racial preferences in the state constitution.

Harry should just stand on the steps and shout WOLF! WOLF! WOLF!

Posted by: jeff at April 7, 2005 10:03 PM

Yeah. "Unqualified judges" was my favorite phrase in the whole letter, because it isn't justified or backed up in any way. It's just thrown out there, and people are suppsed to take it on faith.

And I'll bet they do just that.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 7, 2005 10:45 PM

I feel a degree of empathy with the bind the other party finds itself in. I can understand how it feels to be faced with the prospect of confirming Judges who you truly and honestly believe are unfit for the bench, because I rather fancy that had I been a member of the United States Senate at the time, I would have pulled out every legislative tool or procedural roadblock available to me to prevent the confirmations of Assocaite Justices Breyer and Ginsburg. These people who hold views of the Constitution which I regard as not only antithetical to my own, that I believe will destroy the constitution. I refer, of course, to the doctrine of "the living constitution", which is a more flattering way of phrasing "legislating from the bench".

But that's not why I find myself uncomfortable with the Frist option. I find no reasonable way to support the statement that the Constitution prohibits the filibuster at all, let alone on Judicial nominations.

I have read people citing II§2:2, which explicitly requires a 2/3 majority for treaties, but conspicuously doesn't mention a number for confirmation of Judges or officers. However, while the inference of this can be debated, any inference is superceded by I§5:2, which explicitly provides that each House can determine its own rules. Let me just repeat that: the Constitution explicitly requires that the Senate give its consent to Presidential nominees, and explicitly permits the Senate to determine its own procedures. Nowhere in the Constitution is the word "filibuster" mentioned - which means that anyone who claims that the filibuster is either a constitutional right, or that it is somehow unconstitutional, is making up text out of thin air, in my view. Doesn't our party have a word for Judges that do that?

I'm uncomfortable with the idea of discarding long-established practises unless there is clear imperative, but I'm even more leary about it when there is neither Constitutional support for such a move, and when I can foresee that there will come a time when we are in the minority in the Senate, and when that time comes, we will bitterly regret this decision.

Posted by: Simon Dodd at April 8, 2005 12:21 PM

Attila Girl, my personal favorite was the Republicans "throwing out 200 years of Senate history" --i.e., forcing the Democrats to let judicial nominees be put before the Senate for confirmation or rejection, the way it's been done for... let's see, about 200 years now.

Describing breaking a filibuster as"do[ing] away with debate in the Senate" was pretty good too. For an orator who comes across as Nyquil on two legs, Reid writes a heckuva letter.

Posted by: utron at April 8, 2005 02:26 PM

I agree with Simon, and George Will has made this point very effectively too. This is a huge case of 'be careful what you wish for.' If we do this, we'll eventually get it shoved right back up our asses.

Posted by: JD at April 8, 2005 07:18 PM

The point is that the Republicans never treated any of Clinton's nominees the way Bush's are being treated wholesale.

The President produces the names; these people are entitled to an up-or-down vote.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 9, 2005 02:22 AM

The point is that the Republicans never treated any of Clinton's nominees the way Bush's are being treated wholesale.

Not true. Breyer sneaked through under the patronage of Senator Hatch, in - I hope - a rare lapse of judgement on Orrin's part. Richard Paz's nomination was held up in the Senate for five years, William Fletcher for three years, Marcia Berzon for two years. Many Clinton nominees were never confimed, stalling in the Judiciary Committee or never being called up for a floor vote. Some, such as Roger Gregory and James Wynn, never even made it to a Judiciary Committee hearing.

These are just a few examples, but they are still more numerous than the nominees currently being held up in the Senate by the other party. I suspect that a thorough comparison of how Clinton nominees vs. Bush nominees faired on the Hill would show that, if anything, the current President has had a better rate of getting his nominees confirmed than his predecessor. I say all this as a Republican - facts are not partisan, only spin. And I dislike spin, whichever side it comes from.

I personally tend to agree with you that a Judge should get an up or down vote, as a matter of course. However, as I mentioned before - I may or may not agree with the other party's assesment of the nominees, but I can certainly understand it, I can certainly understand them using all the tricks in the book to stop a nominee they feel to be unfit for office, I don't agree with screwing with the rights of the minority in the Senate, and I absolutely despise the effort to dream new (and illusory) text into the constitution, whether that dreaming is done by a liberal activist judge, a conservative activist judge or the President of the Senate with the concurrence of a majority.

I say, call their bluff. Let them filibuster - and if they do, Karl will see to it that we cut them to ribbons in the midterms.

Posted by: Simon at April 9, 2005 07:49 PM

As I see it, if someone wants to filibuster, let them get up and talk. I don't like these "faux-filibusters."

All the statistics I've seen support the notion that the level of non-confimation G.W. is experiencing is unprecedented. E.g.--


Posted by: Attila Girl at April 10, 2005 02:31 PM

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