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Is the Senate Compromise a Good Thing?

I’ve been following the developments in the Senate with great interest. On the whole I truly believe the debate going on is about the future of the Republic. There is a great speech by Al Gore going around detailing some of the critical aspects of the debate. (Here’s a stupid Salon.com link that makes you watch ads.) But Mr. Gore doesn’t know what we know now… that the Senate will avoid the big decision as to whether the filibuster survives of its own according. We owe this development to twelve centrist Senators known as the “Gang of 12″ and their last minute compromise.

The compromise is a fairly simple concept. When the cloture vote comes to the floor on three of the nominees, 6 Democrats will vote to end debate giving the Republicans the necessary 60 votes to overcome the filibuster. The three nominees are the more famous, compelling individuals who have gotten a lot of the recent press. Lord only knows the stories of the other seven nominees…

In return for allowing three nominees past the gate, 6 Republicans will vote against a ruling by the chair should the chair ever rule the judicial filibuster unconstitutional, provided that the filibuster is only used in “extraordinary circumstances.” And thus disaster is averted forever.

But in reality, the solution is a stopgap at best… and a Republican victory at worst. First, what of the remaining 7 nominees? Does the agreement tacitly accept that those nominees are extraordinary enough to warrent filibustering? Or perhaps it means that Frist won’t bring them up for a vote for another three months. And then when the timing is right, declare another judicial crisis requiring the hasty appointment of judges and the end to the judicial filibuster. What then? Will these 6 Republicans stick by their compromise, or will it require a new compromise letting another set of nominees through the gate?

I suggest, as Al Gore does in his speech (did you read it? Here’s the link again… its good), that the point of the filibuster is to encourage deliberation and compromise. But that compromise takes time, and movement by both the majority and minority party. Under the current context, that period of time is shortcircuited because the Senate leadership still has the Nuclear Option at its disposal. If the Democrats raise an objection to a future nominee, the majority need merely declare a crisis and threaten to end the filibuster, initiating another round of hasty negotiations that cheapen the kind of deliberation the filibuster is supposed to engender.

Then again, this compromise may be the turning moment in American partisanship. The next move is really in the hands of the President and the Majority Leader.

probonogeek Uncategorized

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