You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

EDITORIAL: The right filibuster

Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

View results

Opponents of the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor can take heart. Conservative leaders have found a constructive way to talk about a potential filibuster that's fully in accordance with Senate tradition. It's an approach worth considering if Senate Democrats try to ram through the nomination without adequate debate.

More than 120 conservative leaders outlined their idea in a letter to be delivered today to all Republican senators. The effort was organized by Manuel Miranda of the Third Branch Conference, an umbrella group concerned about judicial nominations. The high-toned letter, obtained in advance by The Washington Times, calls for a "great debate" on the nomination -- not just within the Senate Judiciary Committee, but by the full Senate -- for the public's benefit.

The point, the letter says in so many words, is not personal destruction, but edification. The goal is to explain "the consequences of the two distinct judicial approaches to the Constitution, to our national character and to the lives of our children." It is an "extraordinary educable moment that a Supreme Court confirmation process represents." The public should beware "judicial nominees who will allow personal feeling and personal background to color their judgment with empathy for particular classes of litigants."

The key, and welcome, contribution of the letter is to distinguish between a "Democratic filibuster" and a "traditional filibuster." The former, a derailment of American tradition, uses a minority of the Senate to kill a federal court nomination. Mr. Miranda explains that the latter, with a rich and honorable history, is "intended to allow Senators sufficient time to inform themselves and to debate a matter before bringing something to a final vote."

In other words, if Senate Democrats try to cram the nomination down Republican throats, conservatives and moderates of both parties should tell the Democratic leaders to cool it. A lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land merits calm deliberation, not hurried and harried political power plays.

The traditional filibuster would extend debate for a while but with the full expectation of allowing a "final vote" rather than stifling votes as the Democrats first did to Republican appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada in 2003. (Times editorial writer Quin Hillyer was the first in print to broach this traditional sort of filibuster in a May 29 column in the American Spectator.) Unlike Democratic filibusters, the traditional filibuster does not permanently undermine a president's prerogative to appoint well-qualified people to the bench.

There is much in Judge Sotomayor's record, on matters of race, property rights and gun rights, to give pause to any thoughtful person. That's why the Senate would be justified, if needed, in pausing before a final vote.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts