Maine Politics

From the Piscataqua to the St. John

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Nuclear Backlash

PPH Editorial Page Editor John W. Porter makes some good points today in defense of the Senate filibuster, but he gets sucked down the Republican spin hole when describing the rules change the GOP is considering that would destroy this parliamentary procedure.
[E]ventually a simple majority of Republican senators could prevail over a filibuster. Doing so has been dubbed the "nuclear option" by Democrats, while those who support it call it the "constitutional option" because they say it upholds the intent of the Constitution.

As many people have noted, it was the Republicans who came up with the term "nuclear option" and that has been the acceptable lexicon in Washington for months. The term only fell out of favor with Republicans in the last few weeks when new polls showed how badly the idea played with the general public. To refer to it as the "constitutional" option now and claim Democrats made up the term "nuclear" is bad journalism.

From the New Yorker:
Ted Stevens, a Republican Senate veteran from Alaska, was complaining in the cloakroom that the Democratic tactic should simply be declared out of order, and, soon enough, a group of Republican aides began to talk about changing the rules. It was understood at once that such a change would be explosive; Senator Trent Lott, the former Majority Leader, came up with “nuclear option,” and the term stuck.

Visit the new Maine Politics.


In his column this weekend, David Broder says that the Democrats would be smart to back down on the Circuit Court nominees.

I am still looking for an explanation of why it is fine for the majority to rule with few limits at every level of government accept in the U.S. Senate. If it is so important for the minority to have a voice, why don't Maine Democrats amend the legeislative rules to allow filibusters in the Maine Senate? Instead, as pointed out in Porter's comments, they have found new ways for the majority to rule without the minority. If that is OK in Maine, why is it not OK in DC? 

Posted by George

4/24/2005 07:14:00 PM


A better question: if it was OK for Republicans for so many years when they were the minority, why is it not OK for Democrats now.

It's one thing to make a philisophical stand for majority rule if that's what you believe in. That's not what this is. This is a craven political attempt to push a far-right political agenda.

10 of the very worst judges have been opposed by Democrats out of 204 nominated. The Dems aren't holding up anything, the Republicans just want absolute control of every facet of government and they're willing to do whatever it takes to get it. 

Posted by Han

4/25/2005 09:23:00 AM


The Dem. spin machine has quickly judged them 'the ten worse judges' and this is being regurgitated here, there, everywhere.

A quick examination of their records indicates many are sitting FEDERAL judges, with stirling records and well deserving of advancement.

The Constitutional issue of tyranny by a political minority to thwart appointments by a duly elected president looms large. Unless the appointee is bona fide unqualified; there is no case to support these filibusters.

Perhaps it is time to retroactively apply the same 'standard' the Democrats are parroting to their past appointees who continue to wreak havoc to the Constitution and other laws in their decisions.  

Posted by fjh

4/25/2005 10:30:00 AM


"A quick examination of their records... "

A longer examination of their records shows they are terrible choices.

This site even had a bit about that


Where was your outrage and insistence on an up-or-down vote when the Republicans were quashing quilified democratic nominees with anonymous holds and other tricks? 

Posted by Al

4/25/2005 12:20:00 PM


Despite holds and other manuvers by majority Republicans under Clinton, Clinton got a greater percentage of his Circuit Court Nominees approved -- 77% vs. only 67% for Bush.

There have been more filibusters of judicial nominees in the last 5 years than in the previous 200.


Posted by George

4/25/2005 07:14:00 PM


I don't know where you got those numbers or why you're cherry-picking circuit court nominees, but here's a bit from Senator Murray of Washington from the Senate floor last week:

The Senate has confirmed 205 judicial nominees of President Bush who have come to the floor.

In three years, we have stopped just 10 people whose records raise the highest questions about their abilities to meet the standards of fairness that all Americans expect.

Let me repeat that, we have confirmed 205 judicial nominees. That's a confirmation rate of 95%.

We've confirmed 205 judges - the best confirmation rate since President Reagan.

Today, 95% of federal judicial seats are filled. This is the lowest number of vacancies in 13 years. There are now more federal judges than ever before.

Now I have to point out that while the majority is complaining today about our confirmation rate, it was a different story during the Clinton Administration. Back then, Republicans used many roadblocks to stop block the confirmation of judges who were nominated by President Clinton.

During Clinton's second term, 175 of his nominees were confirmed, and 55 were blocked from getting votes. During those years, the majority used the committee process to ensure nominees they disagreed with never came to a vote. 55 never received consideration.

So I think the Senate has an impressive record of confirming judges. That's clear in the 95 percent confirmation rate, the 95 percent of federal judicial seats that are filled, and the lowest number of vacancies in 13 years.

Also, don't act like Democrats have opened some floodgates, the first filibuster of a judicial nominee was done by Republicans.

As the guy above said, you really don't care about the argument for strict majoritarianism, you just want a reason to attack Democrats.

Americans disagree with you. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released today shows 66% of the country opposes the nuclear option. Only 26% support it. Americans realize these are bad judges. 

Posted by Al

4/25/2005 07:59:00 PM


Nice info. 

Posted by Mike

4/25/2005 08:42:00 PM


I am cherry picking circuit court nominees because that is where the action is. The Senate has always given Senators great power over District Court nominees in their state. Most of the District Court nominees that have been held up have been due to objections of the Senators in the state of the nominee. Whether that should be allowed is open to debate but there has been no change in that practice. Filibustering 10 judicial nominees is unprecedented.

I am for majority rule and will live with it if the Democrats take control.

Several Democrats wanted to end the filibuster all together just a few years ago. Now those same Democrats defend the practice. 

Posted by George

4/25/2005 08:45:00 PM


The reason you are seeing some media saying it is the Democrats proposing the 'nuclear option' is the WH saw that using the words nuclear option was 'backfiring' and has been contacting their 'friendly' publishers and editors to attempt a language change. I thought this was a BS theory until I saw it happennig in print and on TV. Meanwhile, the public is responding by driving the poll numbers on any number of issues down. We need responsible, effective leadership to dig us out of the various holes and we're not getting it from this comic book crew who continues to see things as they wish and not as they are.  

Posted by Phil

4/26/2005 06:55:00 AM


Speaking of 'cherry picking', Murray omits nominees in Clinton's first term when Congress was decidedly Democratic. George apparently used his record for both terms, thus the imbalance.

Some of you forgot Bush handily won his re-election, and as John Porter reminds us about Augusta politics, to the Winners Belong the Spoils.

Bush campaigned on Democratic obstructionism during his first time, and pundits believe he got a people's mandate to do something about it:
"The Democrats' filibuster

Two days after he won re-election by more than three million votes and helped to increase the Republican Senate majority from 51 members to 55, President Bush told reporters that he had earned "political capital" in the campaign, adding: "[N]ow I intend to spend it." It should hardly be surprising, therefore, that one of his first actions following his solid victory will be the renomination of 20 federal judges whom the Senate failed to confirm during the president's first term.
It is worth recalling that Mr. Bush campaigned throughout 2004 against the Democrats' obstructionism in the Senate, which was most clearly epitomized by the unprecedented filibuster campaign the minority party waged against 10 judicial nominees to the nation's circuit courts of appeal. Indeed, the president's coattails played an indispensable role in ousting Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the leader of the filibuster campaign whose judicial obstructionism played a major role in his electoral defeat.

4/26/2005 09:50:00 AM


Well, if each of every state's two senators is taken to represent half that state's population, then the Senate's fifty-five Republicans represent 131 million people, while its forty-four Democrats represent 161 million. Looked at another way, the present Senate is the product of three elections, those of 2000, 2002, and 2004. [That's because one-third of the Senate faces re-election every two years.] In those elections, the total vote for Democratic senatorial candidates, winning and losing, was 99.7 million; for Republicans it was 97.3 million. The forty-four person Senate Democratic minority, therefore, represents a two-million-plus popular majority—a circumstance that, unless acres trump people, is at variance with common-sense notions of democracy. So Democrats, as democrats, need not feel too terribly guilty about engaging in a spot of filibustering from time to time 

Posted by David

4/26/2005 09:16:00 PM


Senators represent all the people of a state. Anyone who does not understand that concept should not be making political arguments.


Posted by Sam Smith

4/26/2005 10:15:00 PM


He knows that, he was making a general reference to the mood of the country. Way to miss the point. 

Posted by Al

4/27/2005 04:31:00 PM



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