"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

More Than One Way to Skin a Cat 

As expected, the atmosphere in the United States Senate began to grow toxic today. By this time next week, it is entirely possible - perhaps even likely - that the Senate Republicans will have explicitly adopted the position that following the rules is strictly for suckers and Democrats (but I repeat myself).

Now, I will grant that there are nontrivial arguments in favor of doing away with the filibuster. It is clearly an antimajoritarian mechanism, and that fact troubles some people. Along those lines, however, it is interesting to consider that 35 million Californians are represented by just two Democratic Senators, while the 35 million residents of Wyoming, Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Maine, Utah, Missouri, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi are collectively represented by 26 Republicans. The Senate has never been a very inviting place for majoritarians.

But in the event that principle demands the extinction of the filibuster, there are procedures in place for ending it. Standing Rule 22 provides that the rule may be changed upon the assent of "two-thirds of the Senators present and voting." Seems simple enough; at least, it does to the Senate's parliamentarian. The Senate Republicans, however, are prepared to obtain a ruling from the chair (in the person of Vice President Dick "Dick" Cheney, if necessary) that Rule 22 doesn't apply because - well, I guess, because they said so.

And so we are treated to the spectacle of Senate Majority Leader Bill "Kitty Killer" Frist waxing philosophical:
I do not rise for party. I rise for principle.

An interesting position from a man who, in March, 2000, joined an attempted filibuster against two of Bill Clinton's nominees to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

 

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