Over the past few weeks, the battle over judicial filibusters has spread like wildfire. Everyone has an opinion, and few have has hesitated to share it. The religious right has thrown barbs saying that Democrats are opposed to religion – the very reason they are opposing the appointment of a number of the president’s judicial nominations. While many views from the religious right are being pressed on lawmakers, I want to remind the Republican Senate caucus of another religious message, prevalent in the Judeo-Christian world: “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.”
I remind Senator Frist that just because he currently has the power to change the rules to end the minority’s right to filibuster doesn’t mean he should. Some Republican senators have taken this opinion, but the White House and the senatorial leadership continue their quest to end the filibuster. We need to applaud and support the senators who had taken this reasonable and smart position, such as Sen. Snow (Maine), Sen. Collins (Maine), Sen. McCain (Ariz.), and Sen. Chafee (R.I.). Republicans claim that they have the 50 votes needed to change the rules – Vice President Dick Cheney said he would vote for it, which would break the tie – but I would encourage those Republican senators still on the fence to break the party line, and do what’s best for the country.
Republicans need to think about the future, not just their current power situation. What will happen in 10 years when there is a Democratic president and a Senate with a Democratic majority? Will anyone have forgotten the infamous rewriting of the rules that occurred in 2005? Keeping in mind that there will likely be a number of Supreme Court seats opening in the near future, would it be unreasonable for Democrats to return the favor? No, and in reality, the last thing Republicans want are more liberals on the Supreme Court.
The logic that the Republican leadership has exhibited is questionable. Senator Frist and the president’s right-hand man, Karl Rove, have both opposed any sort of compromise proposed by Democrats – which is problematic in parliamentary politics, where deals are not only part of the common procedure, but required. Senator Frist has also said that while he is in favor of ending the filibusters of judicial nominations, he does not want to rewrite the rules to end other presidential nominations, such as those of cabinet secretaries. While this seems like a nice gesture, it is completely illogical. Judges in federal courts are appointed for life, cabinet secretaries only for the president’s term. How does it make sense to Senator Frist to allow for blockades on nominations for positions that will last for less than for years, but not for positions that could last more than 40? This doesn’t make any sense.
The filibuster was created to allow for the minority to protect against radicals. Those to the right have tried to make the case that Democrats are merely trying to deny the president’s wishes; however, a simple glance at some of the judges in question would show otherwise. One of the judges that the president has nominated, Priscilla Owens from Texas, has constantly been engaged in judicial activism. She added a mandate to a ruling concerning abortion requiring that minors seeking what she called a “judicial bypass” are told of the religious concerns surrounding an abortion. Another nominee, Janice Brown, is in favor of forcing minors to get permission from their parents to get an abortion. She also has been quoted numerous times saying that religion needs to have a place in the judiciary. These are just two of the examples. Are these judges radicals? Maybe, it’s not my place to say. However, it is the right of the minority to block people like this.
Democrats have approved more than 205 of the president’s nominations, a 95 percent rate. Blocking seven isn’t a terrible action. It is appropriate for the Democrats and the responsible move for our country. Senator Frist must do onto others as he would want them to do onto him. Would he like the Democrats to do this to him, or his party in the future?
-The writer is a freshman majoring in international affairs.