Vice President Dick Cheney stepped into the judicial wars last Friday when he spoke to the Republican National Lawyers Association. He pledged to cast the tie-breaking vote should the Senate deadlock 50-50 on the question of changing Senate rules. Apparently addressing vacillating Republican senators, Cheney said, "On the merits, this should not be a difficult call to make." Speaking of Democrat filibusters to keep qualified judges off the bench because of their conservative approach to the Constitution, Cheney added, "The tactics of the last few years, I believe, are inexcusable."
Some Democrats, like West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, who once favored majority rule when his party ruled the Senate, oppose it now that Republicans hold the majority. In the 1970s, Byrd and his fellow Democrats voted to end filibusters and in favor of a simple majority when it suited their political and legislative goals. Democrats, then, didn't worry about a loss of comity and what Republicans might do to them a decade or two later. They simply used the power they had to achieve their objectives, which is precisely what Republicans should do now.
There is only one reason to have power, and that is to use it. If Republicans don't use it, they deserve to lose it. The Constitution is not, as the late Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes cynically observed, "what the justices say it is." The Constitution is what the Constitution says it is. Do Republican senators believe that?
We should soon know the answer to this question, because it's nearly time to choose again.
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