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Let filibusters be filibusters

Via Discriminations, I see a column from Linda Chavez arguing that Senate Republicans have an alternative to the "nuclear option" of eliminating the filibuster for judicial nominees:

But the most significant change in filibuster rules came later, when, by gentlemen's agreement, the Senate leadership decided that the mere threat of a filibuster would be enough to stop a vote. Instead of forcing obstructionist senators to take to the floor for hours on end, the Senate began operating under a two-track system that allows legislation and other business to move through the Senate whenever a filibuster is threatened. Instead of pulling in the cots and forcing senators to stay up all night reading recipes into the Congressional record, 41 senators simply indicate their unwillingness to allow a vote, and the matter is put aside -- which is the process Democrats have used to derail Bush's judicial nominees.
If the Republicans want to force a vote on the president's nominees, they don't have to change the filibuster rules permanently, or even adopt the so-called "nuclear option" of allowing Vice President Cheney, acting in his Constitutional role as presiding officer of the Senate, to rule that executive matters -- specifically judicial nominations -- are not subject to a cloture vote. Why not just insist that senators who want to filibuster actually do so, bringing work in the Senate to a halt?
I think this is brilliant. Perhaps because I already said it quite a while ago.

Note that this would also fit the true purpose of a filibuster: to preserve the opportunity for debate. (That it prevents a bill or nominee from being voted upon is merely an incidental effect.) If Democrats want to have a debate on a nominee, let them. Let them talk as long as they want. And when they're done talking, then the Senate can vote. If the Democrats have made their case, great. All they need to do, after all, is peel away six Republican senators from the majority. If they can't manage to do that after talking all day and all night, then perhaps it's because their case has no merit.

Chavez concludes:

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Republicans would make a mistake getting rid of the filibuster. Republicans won't be in the majority forever, and they may rue the day when they deprived themselves of the ability to block a candidate to some future Supreme Court. Worse, they may end up making themselves look like the heavies instead of forcing the Democrats to take center stage as the real fanatics. Let the filibuster stay -- and force the Democrats to actually use it.
All that is true... and Republicans are either fanatic, power-drunk, or just plain stupid not to realize it. But it misses a much simpler point, one that leftists like Nathan Newman understand all too well:
But the reality is that conservatives have thrived in a political environment where they can block any positive use of government. By frustrating progressive policy, it feeds the argument that ineffective government does not deserve the taxes working families paid. That was the explicit argument of conservatives who blocked health care reform in 1994; they knew that national health care would be so popular that it would lock in support for positive government action for decades more.
The reverse doesn't work for liberals. Blocking conservative action through filibusters has short-term gains, but it feeds the long-term cynicism of voters that government cannot accomplish anything. Which just feeds the meta-argument of conservatives of the dysfunctionality of government and the superiority of leaving decisions to the marketplace.
Liberals like government. The business of government is passing laws. The filibuster prevents that from happening. The filibuster is anti-government. The filibuster -- regardless of the short-term politics of a particular issue today -- is the small government supporter's friend. Why would you want to sacrifice that over seven measly judicial nominees?


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