From the Right: Nuclear Option

Tony Venhuizen

Tony Venhuizen

Over the past four years, thousands of gallons of ink have been spent about the use of filibusters by the Democratic minority in the U.S. Senate to block several of President Bush’s nominees for the federal courts.

The Constitution of the United States gives the Senate the responsibility to offer its “advice and consent” for the President’s appointees to the federal bench. For most of our nation’s history, the senate acted as little more than a rubber stamp; nominees were rejected only if Congress learned of some personal or professional indiscretion that clearly disqualified the nominee from serving as a federal judge. That began to change in the 1980s. It is always dangerously difficult to determine who threw the first punch, but I would identify the Democratic Senate’s refusal to confirm Robert Bork, a conservative judge who had been nominated to the Supreme Court by President Reagan. Since that time, judicial nominees have faced increased scrutiny not only for their personal and professional conduct, but also for their ideologies.

I believe that the U.S. Senate should confirm all judicial nominees who are morally and ethically fit for the office. I don’t believe that ideology should be a factor. However, I recognize that United States Senators have the right to vote however they want for whatever reasons they choose.

This is what bothers me about the Democratic filibusters about judicial nominees. They are preventing our elected Senators from exercising their constitutional responsibility. Every one of President Bush’s judicial nominees have had the support of at least 50 Senators. But because the Senate’s archaic parliamentary rules require the support of 60 s enators to end debate, Democrats have literally talked Bush’s nominees to death.

This is where the so-called “nuclear option” comes into play. Republicans have developed a strategy whereby they could break a Democratic filibuster with only 51 votes. Here is how it work: Democrats would stage a filibuster of a judicial nominee. A Republican senator would object to the filibuster, arguing that it inhibits the senate’s constitutional responsibility to offer its advice and consent. This objection would require a ruling from the President of the Senate who would rule in favor of the Republican senator. The Democrats would object to his ruling, but only 51 votes would be required to uphold it. There are 55 Republican senators.

Is this an ideal situation? No. The ideal situation would be that there would be an up-or-down vote on every judicial nomination. But as long as the Democrats choose to resort to procedural means to block nominations, they have no right to complain when Republicans counter with procedural means of their own.

Tony Venhuizen is a registered republican and a student representative with the Board of Regents.