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Republicans and the nuclear option

by John at 5/21/2005 09:02:00 AM

Here's what many moderate Republicans have to say about the nuclear option to change the rules on cloture for judicial debate and eliminate the filibuster (from PFAW release):

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania
"I'm going to exercise every last ounce of my energy to solve this problem without the nuclear option," he said. "If we have a nuclear option, the Senate will be in turmoil and the Judiciary Committee will be hell."
Washington Post, 02-24-05

"What [a possible compromise on judicial appointments] is really all about is saving face," the Pennsylvania Republican told CNN. "The institution of the Senate and the protection of minority rights is more important than the entire group [of nominees]."
CNN website, 5-18-05

Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska
"It's important that we protect the institution of the Senate and the tools of minority rights because if those are eroded, you will then put the institution on a slippery slope to keep - by straight majority vote. By saying this rule's going to change. This rule's going to change. ...I do not like this approach. It's a dangerous approach. It's an irresponsible approach. And it further erodes the constitutional minority rights element of the Senate."
CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," 04-17-05

"We have to sit down ourselves, look each other in the eye and talk not just about short-term consequences but, more importantly, long-term consequences for the institution of the Senate. The Senate was primarily built around protection of minority rights."
CBS's "Face the Nation," 05-01-05

Senator Susan Collins of Maine
"[T]o change the rules of the Senate and to invoke what they are calling the nuclear option ... would so poison the well that I fear that it would be very difficult for us to tackle those major issues that are coming down the road."
National Journal, 01-22-05

Senator John Warner of Virginia
"I tend to be a traditionalist, and the right of unlimited debate has been a hallmark of the Senate since its inception."
Press statement, 04-29-05

"We can't do damage to the Senate rules, which would come back to work against the interests of the Republican Party when we're in the minority. ...This is the last bastion, an institution that protects the rights of the minority."
Virginia Pilot, 04-29-05

Senator John McCain of Arizona
"If we don't protect the rights of the minority ... if you had a liberal president and a Democrat-controlled Senate, I think that it could do great damage."
CBS's "Face the Nation," 04-10-05

"'I don't know why in the last 200 years we have not had this kind of crisis before, but we've always been able to work things out,' says Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is now 'strongly inclined' to vote against the rule change. 'We will not be in the majority forever. History has shown us that.'"
Wall Street Journal, 04-12-05

Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine
"I don't believe that at this point we should resort to changing the rules in order to adapt it to this scenario. We ought to try and make it work."
Portland Press-Herald, 12-26-04

Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island
"'Just the word that's being used - the nuclear option - says it all,' Chafee said of the parliamentary maneuver. ...'The acrimony's so thick down here that a step into complete radioactivity isn't good for the American people.'"
The Providence Journal, 05-17-05

Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas
"What goes around comes around ...[it is] not in the best interests of either party or the Senate to take this step."
Kansas City Star, 05-15-05

Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon
"I don’t want the Senate to become the House."
The Hill, 03-02-05

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee
"I am one of the Republicans who believe such a rules change is not a good idea - not good for the Senate, not for the country, not for Republicans, and not for Democrats. The Senate needs a body that by its procedures gives unusual protection to minority rights."
Senate floor statement, 04-12-05

Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio
"[T]he best thing to do is to have an understanding between the parties. ...[Changing the rules is] probably not going to be the way to do it."
Congressional Quarterly, 05-07-03

"I think it’s in the best interest of the country that we work out something. ...This is a confrontation we should not have.”
Chicago Tribune, 05-18-05

Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana
"'On the fundamental issue, I believe we are skating over very thin ice here with regard to the continuity of life in the Senate as we’ve known it,' Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) said on CNN’s 'Late Edition.' 'I’m opposed to trying to eliminate filibusters simply because I think they protect minority rights, whether they’re Republicans, Democrats or other people.'"
Los Angeles Times, 05-16-05

Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi
"It’s very important that one faction or one party not be able to ride roughshod over the minority and impose its will. The Senate is not the House."
Wall Street Journal, 06-05-03

Senator Robert Bennett of Utah
"Once we [Republicans] try to change the rules with 51 votes, the precedent is on the table. ...If Hillary Clinton becomes president with a Democratic Senate and wants to appoint Lani Guinier to the Supreme Court, Harry Reid could make that happen with 51 votes."
Farmington Daily Times, 05-18-05

Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico
"I will listen to that debate carefully, but it will be very difficult to get me to vote to change the filibuster rule. ...I always thought that the filibuster rule protected the minority in a rather exceptional way, better than almost any other rule we’ve got."
National Journal, 12-11-04

Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire
"I'm just thinking through the history and the precedents of changing the rules. Like any rules change, I want to ask the question: If the rule is changed, is it something I’m comfortable with whether I’m in the majority or the minority, whether we have a Republican president or a Democratic president?"
Wall Street Journal, 04-12-05

In a conscience vote, the nuclear option would go down 62-38. There are some interesting demographics associated with this; of the 55 Republican senators, only 20 have held their position from before January, 1995. That means only 20 have ever experienced a prolonged period of being in the minority in the Senate.

Nonetheless, the nuclear option will likely pass, judicial filibuster will be eliminated, and in retaliation, Senate Democrats will start excercising traditionally unexercised minority rights to bring most Senate business to a standstill in an undesirable, last ditch effort to maintain a small (but deserved) influence in our government. How is this mutually assured destruction a good deal for anyone?

This is going to happen because the Republican party leadership is in thrall to the American Taliban. Polls of Americans show that most think eliminating the filibuster is a bad idea. The vast majority of Americans also think that the Senate should be assertive in its examination of judicial nominees. By using the nuclear option to change the rules (in a move that itself violates centuries of tradition and skirts Senate rules on rule changes), these moderate Republicans will betray their own principles and the values of their constituents. They will betray them to please religious conservatives like James Dobson, who, after having long supported Republican candidates, are finally demanding that their desire for socially conservative "activist" judges be appeased. They will betray them for short-term political gain and short-term party interests. And by doing so, these moderate Republican senators will actually reduce their personal standing and impact in the Senate.

For too long, by courting rabid religious conservatives, the Republicans have been playing with fire. They've already been burned by their interference with Terri Schiavo's life and death, but, like slow learners, they are willing to run back toward the flames.

We are all going to pay for their stupidity.

(thanks to the writers at Daily Kos for lots on background and information, but especially this post)
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