Force Democrats to Stage Real Filibusters

"We intend to do in the 108th Congress, exactly what we did in the 107th Congress." So says Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D.-S.D).

And exactly what did Tom Daschle and his not so merry band of liberals do in the 107th Congress? Nothing. Talk about a Do-Nothing Congress! President Harry Truman used that slogan to brand the Republican-controlled 80th Congress.

Truman would have blushed if he witnessed the productivity of the 107th Congress, controlled this time by his own party. The appropriations bills, with a couple of exceptions, weren’t even passed. The House of Representatives passed over 100 bills that were not acted upon by the Senate. When I say they did nothing, I mean to suggest that the act of stopping all positive initiatives is not exactly doing something, although apparently Daschle is proud of his record.

When folks who didn’t stay up all night woke up on that Wednesday after the election and found out that the Republicans controlled the Senate, the first reaction of almost everyone was that now President George W. Bush will be able to get his judges confirmed.

Well, not if Daschle can help it. His crew is already planning to filibuster any number of judicial nominees that the President has sent up to the Senate for confirmation. This is something that just about isn’t done. But for a party which has no imagination, what else can they do? Senator Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.) even held a hearing, when the Democrats were in control, the point of which was that it is permissible to vote against judges on account of ideology.

Somehow liberals believe that a Supreme Court resignation is in the offing. They are already making it clear that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has had his last confirmation vote. If the President nominates him for Chief Justice, as Bush has hinted he might do, the Democrats intend to filibuster.

Indeed, they intend to filibuster Judge Charles Pickering, who was defeated last year on a party line vote in the Judiciary Committee. They are already filibustering Miguel Estrada who never did get a vote, but who might be a candidate for the Supreme Court if he makes it to the court of appeals.

Nominees to the courts aren’t the only candidates for the filibuster. The President’s plan for economic growth has a good chance of getting that treatment. After all, if this plan passes and it works, the President is very likely to be re-elected. So what better way to keep alive the issue of a sluggish economy than by preventing the passage of that measure. It can be done in the name of preventing a "windfall to the rich."

How is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) going to cope with this situation? Well, what he needs to do is to force real filibusters on the Senate. You see, since the mid-1970s, the Senate has not had a real filibuster, the kind that has Senators sleeping on cots, with possible cloture votes in the middle of the night.

Since then the Senate has had only "Cadillac" filibusters. That is to say, a Senate leader, usually the Minority Leader, would announce that a measure was being opposed and a discussion on the issue was held for an hour or two.

Then that issue was set aside and regular Senate business was conducted. The next day another hour might be spent on the bill that was being filibustered, but again that would be set aside and the Senate would proceed to the regular order.

These filibusters are painless. After a few days, usually, the Majority Leader would file a cloture petition, or a measure to shut off debate. If the vote on cloture was close, additional cloture votes might be held to see if debate could be ended. If I recall correctly, the most number of cloture votes that was ever held was five, in the late 1960s, on a bill the unions wanted badly but which was blocked by Republicans. In those days one needed only 34 votes to continue the filibuster.

Well, to stop this shameless strategy on the part of Daschle and friends to end up with another "Do Nothing Congress," Sen. Frist must return to the days of the real filibuster. We don’t have Strom Thurmond’s health to worry about anymore. Senators should be required to deal with one subject only, namely the item being filibustered. The Democrats, at least 41 of them, don’t mind showing up to vote but to have to actually debate the subject that is another matter.

When it is clear to the American people that the liberals are obstructionist, the pressure will be on Daschle to abandon the filibuster strategy. Then perhaps the President’s initiatives and nominations will be fairly considered.