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May 23, 2005

Save the filibuster

Ah, the filibuster. Can it be saved? Should it be saved?

Answer No. 1 is, of course, yes. All that is needed to save the windy weapon is 51 votes in favor of it. They may well be there, despite the 55-45 Republican majority and the apparent determinination by GOP leadership to get an up-down vote on 10 of the most radical of Mr. Bush's judicial appointees.

A sense of institutional responsibility may override partisan considerations for enough GOP senators to leave the filibuster intact.
Great political bodies generally do not surrender any power, even if the prospective recipient is a "friend."

Should it be saved?

The filibuster is simply a tool that enables a minority -- 41 of 100 senators to be precise -- to prevail over the majority by preventing a floor vote that would carry.

It has been with us since the beginning, and has been both good and evil. It's most notable and long-term use was to prevent significant civil rights legislation for nearly 100 years after the Civil War. (As good as education as you could want on that topic is to be found in Master of the Senate, volume three in Robert Caro's fascinating and still unfinished biography of Lyndon Johson.)

But ill use does not make it an ill weapon. Surrendering to a minority viewpoint is not always wrong, unless you're willing to argue that the majority is ALWAYS right. If do argue that, you're likely to be laughed at given the mountain of contrary evidence piled up by history.

Given the times, an empowered Senate minority seems a good thing to me. Leadership of the majority party is demanding everything it wants. It's not enough that all but 10 of the President's judicial appointees have been approved. The Senate is being told to take every last one, no matter how far out on the fringe they may be.

Protecting the rights of the minority generally falls to the courts. And they generally do a decent job, though judges often come under vicious attack for doing so.

The guys and gals in the robes will look even lonlier and more vulnerable, if the Senate surrenders its minority rights.

Posted by jcb at May 23, 2005 07:33 PM


Heard Sen. McCain this morning talking about the compromise to save the filibuster and end the stalement. He was pretty sensible. Of course there should be a way to safeguard the minority; McCain said he figured the Democrats would be the majority again someday... He's about the only Republican I'd ever vote for, besides Jim Leach.

Posted by: Vita at May 24, 2005 12:50 PM