Thursday, April 20, 2006

On the Filibuster and the Gang of 14

Last May, a group of Senators dubbed the “Gang of 14” (of which Senator Mike DeWine was one) arrived at a compromise to avoid a filibuster showdown on several judicial nominations and the exercise of the “nuclear option.” The option was to allow for a simple majority of 50 senators to end a filibuster concerning presidential nominations rather than require the current 60 votes. The compromise ended the filibuster on three nominees so confirmation was apparent, continued the filibuster on two other conservative nominees thereby rejecting them without a Senate vote, and promised to use the filibuster tactics only in “extraordinary circumstances” – of course, the term extraordinary circumstances was not defined.

By any degree of common sense, and in reality, the filibuster to delay the President’s nominations is a direct attack on the Constitution, wherein it states in Article II – Section 2 “[The President] … by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, … , Judges of the Supreme Court, ….” By filibustering, and thereby not giving the President an “up or down” vote, the Senate is being derelict in one of its perfunctory responsibilities outlined in the Constitution.

It is one thing to filibuster a piece of legislation which has no Constitutional guarantee to passage or rejection, it is quite another issue to use the process to avoid a time honored Constitutional requirement of “advice and consent” whereby the nominee is either confirmed or rejected. In addition, filibustering leaves the judicial position unfilled and burdens the rest of the court system which in turn impacts the serving of justice to “we the people ….”

In essence, what Senator Mike DeWine and his 13 colleagues held onto with the compromise was their ability not to perform their Constitutional duty.

William G. Pierce, P.E.

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