Monday, January 31, 2005

Kevin Drum writes about how the GOP played with one set of rules when the Dems were the majority party, but since their rise to majority, they've gradually changed those rules. It's much like the pigs in Animal Farm -- the book to read if you want to understand this current version of Republicans.
Senate Democrats have relied on filibusters to block judicial nominees far more often than have minority parties in previous congresses. But there's good reason for this: Republicans have steadily done away with every other Senate rule that allows minorities to object to judicial nominees -- rules that Republicans took full advantage of when they were the ones out of power.

Originally, after Republicans gained control of the Senate in the 1994 elections and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch assumed control of the Judiciary Committee, the rule regarding judicial nominees was this: If a single senator from a nominee's home state objected to (or "blue-slipped") a nomination, it was dead. This rule made it easy for Republicans to obstruct Clinton's nominees.

But in 2001, when a Republican became president, Hatch suddenly reversed course and decided that it should take objections from both home-state senators to block a nominee. That made it harder for Democrats to obstruct George W. Bush's nominees.

In early 2003 Hatch went even further: Senatorial objections were merely advisory, he said. Even if both senators objected to a nomination, it could still go to the floor for a vote.

Finally, a few weeks later, yet another barrier was torn down: Hatch did away with "Rule IV," which states that at least one member of the minority has to agree in order to end discussion about a nomination and move it out of committee.
Given this history, fair-minded Republicans would be better advised to restore some of the rules they themselves once defended so fervently than to attempt to tear down the last one remaining. After all, no majority lasts forever. Legislators should keep in mind the question posed by Thomas More in "A Man for All Seasons" when his daughter's suitor says he would cut down every last law to get at the Devil. "And when the last law was down," More asks, "and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide?" -- Kevin Drum, Washington Post

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