Senate and Filbusters

by Shannen W. Coffin

Ramesh, I think you’ve misunderestimated the Democrats resolve here. The potential filibuster of a cabinet official is a much lower stakes battle than that of a Supreme Court Justice, be it Chief or Associate. So the Democrats can be expected to do everything to hold the front line in the fight. No doubt, certain Red State Democratic Senators — such as Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson — will be under tremendous pressure to allow an up or down vote. Indeed, I’ve done my best to step up the fight to bring Landrieu around (or at least to accountability) on the filibuster. But so far, Landrieu has been in lock step with the Democratic leadership in every major nominee battle that has been filibustered. While the jury may still be out on whether or not the Democrats filibuster is constitutional or not — a purely philosophical dispute that is never likely to be decided by the Courts because of threshold problems of justiciability (although it certainly could be decided by the Senate) — I join the chorus that disagrees with the NR editorial board on the need for filibuster reform. Whether or not the filibuster of judicial nominees is technically consistent with the constitution is not entirely relevant to the issue of whether it is should be done away with. A ruling from the chair need not be on constitutional grounds, though there are plenty to support it, as Mark Levin has pointed out. Simply put, Republicans in the Senate should do everything to ensure an up or down vote for all judicial nominees, Supreme Court or otherwise. I don’t think we disagree too much on the underlying substance, but your opposition to filibuster reform seems to paint a not-altogether-realistic portrait of the political battle brewing here.

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