May 23, 2005

Nuclear Option

The Senate tonight is moving closer to invoking the “nuclear option” to circumvent the filibuster rule for judicial nominations. I sent the letter below to my two senators: Santorum (who will surely vote for the “nuclear option”) and Specter (who may have the courage to vote against it).

I believe that the two greatest political ideas contributed by the United States are the separation of church and state and a system of checks and balances. The filibuster is part of the latter. The Republican Party seems intent on diminishing both of these great ideas embodied in the Republic.

Dear Senator:

The President says that every judicial nominee has a right to an up-or-down vote in the Senate. This is not true. Nominees deserve a decision on whether the Senate consents to his or her nomination or not. (Whatever happened to the notion that the Senate also provides advice on nominations?) Anyway, a successful filibuster on a nominee amounts to a rejection by the Senate and surely fulfills any moral or constitutional obligation to the nominee, the President, or to the American people.

The filibuster rule in the United States Senates, any history notwithstanding, has no exceptions regarding the matter at issue. Any argument to the contrary is disingenuous, and I suspect that you, every Republican member of the Senate, and the Vice President of the United Sates all realize that.

The filibuster rule is not, I admit, “democratic.” It is, however, a bulwark against democracy run amuck, one of the many checks and balances built into the structure of the Republic, albeit not a check institutionalized in the Constitution.

Preserving the filibuster in its current form, and certainly for judicial nominations, is especially important because it is vital that our courts be and be seen to be impartial. Judges confirmed by 51-49 votes are likely to be people who will compromise that appearance and, likely, that reality. Should the next Supreme Court justice be confirmed by such a close and partisan vote, it will, I believe, be a step toward the destruction of the American experiment that, for more than 200 years, has been such a shining light to the world.

For me, your vote for the “nuclear option” will be a legislative sin that I can never forgive. Should you vote to support the cynically improper scheme for approving the President’s judicial nominations hatched by the Vice President and the Senate leadership, I will forever hold you and your party responsible for a wanton blow to the Republic more devastating than any a mere terrorist might inflict.

May your conscience overrule your party loyalty on this issue.

Lionel Deimel