Plus: a Real Parliamentary Showdown in Ottawa
I've been listening to the crap spewing from the Senate floor, TV wingnut operatives, Powerline puppets and the pro-Bush C-SPAN callers fresh out of the Fox & Friends morning roll-call.
This fight is about the filibuster in name only -- the bobbleheads' new outrage is their inability to get a "simple up or down vote." McClellan used that exact phrase over 20 times in yesterday's briefing. Of course, that's not what this is about either, but even these guys aren't crazy enough to claim their real agenda is a constitutional option.
So, these magnificent seven, wonderful judge-folk are denied their God-given constitutional rubber-stamping. The abusive Democratic overlords of the Senate have forced the Republicans to sacrifice the once proud filibuster.
That's it! Frist has now driven me to reinstall Photoshop so I can play with his head!
Anyways -- I'd really like to hear Brown or Owen opine on veteran Senators' cavalier interpretations of the constitution. It would be like that Star Trek episode when Spock must pick out the correct Captain between a Good Kirk and a Evil Kirk. If they ruled against the Republican interpretation, they would doom their own nominations. Of course, that miracle would dispel Democratic unease and open the gates to a floor vote. Like Star Trek - science fiction.
I fear my lack of faith is being tested by this parade of Republicans alchemists, who transform each breath into a stream of bullshit. Oh, if only there were a Hell awaiting them! I can enjoy my fantasies of revenge, but don't have much confidence in their fruition.
The "I-wanna-kick-some-ass" buzz is usually killed by the left's canned responses to the conservative rationalizations. The case is usually based upon arcane historical examples of filibusters-in-action. We'll never win these arguments defending the technicalities of filibuster, then discounting or ignoring its purpose and stature as an institution. We sweat, mining those unimpeachable statistics, and the right produces false, but convincing, reasons why our evidence isn't relevant.
I propose what others have discussed here: Democrats should concede some points, lose the statistics, engage the right's vestigial sense of fairness and shift the burden of precedence to them:
- Off the bat, we are re-labeled flip-floppers because we used to hate filibusters. Disarm that hyperbole; concede that Democrats did complain about the filibuster at times in the past. Of course, those same eras saw Republicans making an equally vigorous defense. Decrying the methods of the opposition at one moment, then embracing those methods later is merely a natural function of power shifts..
- Paint their solution as the easy route and a sign of weak convictions. In 1994, Democrats were very frustrated by the Republicans' use of filibusters. Yet, in an interview on CBS News, a number of top Democratic Senators voiced support for that same thorn in their side. They accepted the challenges -- over the easy out -- because it was the right thing to do.
- We shouldn't waste time searching for precedents. The use of the filibuster in this EXACT manner is unprecedented. Blocking the sacred up-or-down vote on judges isn't, however. There have been hundreds of past judicial nominees felled by the use of procedural techniques by both parties. This use of the filibuster is novel, not abusive. Up-or-down votes have been blocked by Republicans, and it is totally dishonest to treat the filibuster as a WMD. Their beef is with the filibuster's end result -- the prevention of a floor vote. In that regard, Dems and Reps are in the same boat with different equipment. We got paddles and they had a sail.
- Challenge the sincerity of their motives. Do they truly just want that up-or-down vote? For example, a Democratic offer to fastrack another less contentious nominee was made today. Sen. Darbin announced that a Bush judicial pick shouldn't need to wait until the Owen affair was over. He requested an immediate floor vote. The Senate president rejected the move, citing the importance of the procedural schedule. Sounds like the rules trumping a "Senator's job to vote."
Also, don't watch C-SPAN for extended periods. It's not healthy.
Finally, for a little perspective, parliamentary events in Canada today made our squabbles seem like a playground spat. The Liberals survived a vote that could have forced Paul Martin's government to fall.
In absolute high drama, the vote ended in a tie and the Speaker of the House cast the decider. Read the CBC story here.
OTTAWA - By a razor-thin margin, Paul Martin's minority government survived a confidence vote late Thursday afternoon, staving off a snap election.
With the support of Independent MP Chuck Cadman, the House voted evenly 152 to 152 on Bill C-48, an amendment to the budget that adds $4.6 billion in social program spending and delays corporate tax cuts.
That left Speaker of the House Peter Milliken, who is a Liberal MP, to break the tie and vote for the budget. The Speaker only votes in the event of a tie.
"The parliamentary precedents are clear," Milliken told the chamber after the 152-152 vote count was announced.
"The Speaker should vote, whenever possible, for continuation of debate on a question that cannot be decided by the House."
If the amendment had failed, Martin would have asked the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and call a general election likely for the end of June, only a year after the last election, in June 2004.