Senate Nuclear Dud?

Salon.com thinks that public reaction in the Terri Schiavo matter may have killed the “nuclear option,” a plan to revise “the cloture rule reducing the now required 60 votes to end a filibuster to a simple majority.”

Republican senators, stung by the negative public reaction to their intervention in the Schiavo case, are likely to be twice-shy about being seen, once again, as the tools of the religious right. With one-third of all Republicans saying Democrats in Congress should prevent Republican leaders from “going too far in pushing their agenda,” and 41% of Republicans opposing the “nuclear option,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is going to have a hard time convincing the half-dozen Senate Republicans who are either opposed to or wary of the nuclear plan that they’ll face major political consequences if they don’t get on board.

The plan would “involve a request for a ruling from the chair that filibusters of judicial nominees were unconstitutional. The chair would likely be occupied by either Vice President [Dick] Cheney or Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the chamber’s President Pro Tem. After the ruling came down against filibusters, Democrats would object and demand a vote, requiring Republicans to round up 50 votes on their side to do away with filibuster on judges.” Such a procedure was last used by the Democrats in 1975 to reduce the number of votes needed from 67.

There’s plenty of pressure to make it happen. As Salon.com explains, “Religious conservatives, outraged that the courts did not step lively to the tune they called in the Schiavo case, will push Republicans even harder than before to find ways to confirm Bush’s judicial nominees over Democratic opposition. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council ramped up the rhetoric this week, saying that judge[s] currently conduct themselves as ‘an occupying force of liberal elitists who answer to no one.’ And David Limbaugh warns in his column today that Republican leaders ‘will pay a price’ if they ‘even think about caving’ on the ‘nuclear option.'”

One blogger disputes that requiring a supermajority is constitutional. “The Constitution sets forth seven instances where anything other than a simple majority is necessary… and you guessed it… ending filibusters isn’t one of them.” Actually it is constitutional, but so too is the “nuclear option.” Article I, section 5 states in part, “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.”

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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