Monday, April 25, 2005


Politics at it worst: filibusters to prevent judicial nominations. So the recent flap is about the democrats who are threatening to filibuster the republican judicial nominations.

Some interesting observations from here:
While a majority of the Senate is sufficient to confirm a judge, it takes 60 votes under Senate rules to overcome a filibuster and force a final vote.

Rather than change the rules directly, Frist and other Republicans have threatened to seek an internal Senate ruling that would declare that filibusters are not permitted against judicial nominees.

Because such a ruling can be enforced by majority vote, and Republicans have 55 seats in the 100-member Senate, Republican leaders have said they expect to prevail if they put the issue to the test.
More excerpts from this source:
But history shows that Republicans did something similar to the Democrats' filibusters five years ago.

In 1999 and 2000, before he became majority leader, Frist was one of the Republican senators blocking President Clinton’s nominee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Richard Paez.

Frist and others repeatedly prevented a vote on the Paez nomination. In 1999, Frist and 52 other Republicans voted against a motion to proceed to a vote on Paez.

Six months later, Frist voted against cutting off extended debate — a filibuster — on the nomination.

Then he voted for a motion to postpone a vote on the nomination.

And finally on March 9, 2000, four years after Clinton nominated Paez to the appeals court, Frist was on the losing end of a 59-39 vote on the nomination itself...And Frist, once an agent of obstruction, is moving to change the rule on filibustering nominees so that the Senate can, as Schumer said, “vote them up or down.”

“I don’t think it’s radical to ask senators to vote. I don’t think it’s radical to expect senators to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities,” Frist said Sunday at a rally organized by the Christian conservative group Family Research Council.

Frist is considering a run for president in 2008. The republicans hold a majority in senate. Rather than change the rule, Frist is threatening to seek a majority vote that removes the option of filibusters. Frist has used the filibuster many times himself. Judicial nominations usually are on the court for a very long time. So, the judges that a president appoints usually has the power to affect legislation well after the nominating president has left office. Now, it is "possible" that Frist is having a "change of heart" and wants to change the rule for the betterment of government. However, I suspect something else is at play here:
Some Christian conservative groups feel that this is an opportunity to reshape the judiciary in their own image and that this chance may be short-lived, reports Chaggaris. Perkins and Dobson talked directly about the issue with supporters last month, with Dobson commenting that time may be running out because he feels President Bush will become a "lame duck" in about 18 months.

In an audiotape recording of their conference, obtained by CBS News from the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Dobson is heard telling supporters, "If we let that 18 months get away from us and then maybe we got (Sen.) Hillary (Clinton, D-N.Y.) to deal with or who knows what, we absolutely will not recover from that."
Most troubling is this statement:
Among the speakers Sunday was R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, who said that putting more evangelicals on the court will mean rulings more in tune with the religious convictions of churchgoers.

"We are not asking for persons merely to be moral," Mohler said. "We want them to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ."
This smells an awful lot like a theocracy--not a democracy and this concerns me deeply. There are MANY other faith groups in the US and it's my personal opinion that if we move down this road, it makes discrimination based on faith much easier for which ever majority religion that has the most politicians at the federal level--not to mention pushing a particular agenda based on their religion.

Digression regarding Mohler: I remember having a conversation many years ago with the Lutheran pastor who was teaching my Bible study class. We had gotten on the issue of witnessing, when it was appropriate, etc. According to Pastor Bass, he felt that there were many ways to witness and in his opinion prostylizing was a two-edged sword because it often turns as many people off as it wins them over (he compared it to telemarketers and how annoying they can be). His preferred witnessing tool was to lead by example and though he often invited people to "see what the church was about", he did so in a a very un-dogmatic way (this from a man who spent many years in the mission fields).

Moreover, adherents of any religion should know that you can't force or legislate people to believe! Belief is a very personal matter and only their God would know if they really believed. What Mohler is suggesting flys in the face of this!

The other caveat: If Frist pushes the issue and wins the vote then republicans of the future may well face a similar situation when they are outnumbered. So, years down the road when the democrats hold the majority they could push the Liberal Agenda® by nominating ultra liberal judges and force a vote.

Although filibustering is not perfect, it allows for both sides to negotiate over which judicial nominees will be voted on. It's not the best "check and balance" but it is a check and balance.

Finally, I think the points that I made about Elite Theory in my post on secularism apply to Mohler et al.

This is why I believe that religion and politics are a bad mix when it comes to a democracy.

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