Bring on a real filibuster

Posted: Feb 25, 2003 12:00 AM
Senate Democrats still refuse to accept the results of the November 2002 election. They are trying to overturn it by blocking President George W. Bush's judicial nominees. The media and the Democrats didn't discover until they read the exit polls after the election that judicial reform was the major issue that gave Republicans control of the Senate. The pro-lifers and other conservatives of the president's core constituency got out their vote in unexpected numbers and shocked the pundits by electing to the Senate Republican from Missouri, Minnesota, Georgia, New Hampshire and Colorado. When the president made his pre-election swing around the country, he emphasized the need to end the era of activist judges. This issue resonated loud and clear, bringing thousands of voters to the polls who have been disaffected with politics. Republicans are poised to reap the rewards of their 2002 gains by confirming the dozens of Bush judicial nominees who were kept waiting while the Democrats controlled the Senate. But new Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., finds himself checkmated by Democrat using a filibuster to obstruct Senate Republicans. The term filibuster derives from irregular military adventures by buccaneers or pirates seizing something to which they had no right. Indeed, that describes the Senate Democrats, led by Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who are seeking to control the Senate despite their election defeat. A filibuster in the Senate means making speeches and deploying other obstructive tactics to prevent a vote on a measure favored by the majority, and persisting in the chatter, hour after hour, day and night, until the majority abandons efforts to pass the measure. The Senate hasn't suffered a real filibuster in decades. In recent years, the Senate has had only gentleman's filibusters. That is, the obstructionists talk for a couple of hours and then the majority leader, who controls the agenda, lays the controversial measure aside and moves on to other business. This painless procedure persists for several days, until the Senate votes on cloture, a motion to cut off debate and vote on the controversial measure. Under current Senate rules, it takes 60 votes to approve cloture. The Republican majority in the Senate is 51. The Daschle-Leahy game plan is to prevent confirmation of Bush's judicial nominations who are suspected of being pro-life. That's the pact the Democratic high command has made with the pro-abortion lobby that provided millions of dollars for Democratic candidates in election 2002. Most of Bush's nominees, including Miguel Estrada, have no known position on abortion. But that's not good enough for the Daschle-Leahy Democrats, who derive their political power and financial support from the abortion lobby and demand that judicial nominees endorse Roe v. Wade. The Democrats have been eager promoters of letting the federal courts set themselves up as super-legislatures and rule on important social, economic and political issues in ways that are contrary to the wishes of elected representatives in Congress and state legislatures. Activist judges have undermined the grand design of the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution, which grants "all" federal legislative powers to Congress. Activist court decisions have changed laws passed by legislatures not only on abortion, but on prayer and the Ten Commandments in public schools, internal security, pornography, forced busing, racial quotas, term limits, criminal procedures, welfare payments, election laws, and even recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The courts have taken over micromanagement of schools, prisons, hiring standards and legislative reapportionment. Many other issues currently hang in the balance. These include school vouchers and the right to bear arms. So far, the Republicans have allowed the Daschle-Leahy Democrats to prevent a vote on Estrada, who has been waiting for two years, by the gentleman's filibuster. It appears that Frist did not have the nerve to call their bluff by carrying out an implied threat to keep the Senate in session through the Presidents Day recess. There are at least 51 and probably 54 votes to confirm Estrada, and the Republicans should keep the Estrada nomination on the Senate floor until he gets an up-or-down vote. Let the Democrats talk until they are hoarse so the whole country can see their obstructionist tactics. It would be a great education for the American people to see the Senate discussing what the federal judiciary has done to our laws and culture, and to see Republicans exposing the many activist, out-of-the-mainstream court decisions on social issues. C-SPAN2 could become the most watched channel on television. So, bring on the filibuster. This could be the best move by Republicans since President Ronald Reagan told the air traffic controllers to return to work or be fired.