According to the distinguished Senator from West Virginia, the Senate rule requiring 60 votes to invoke cloture is the only barrier standing between us and tyranny of the majority:
For the temporary gain of a hand-full of “out of the mainstream” judges, some in the Senate are ready to callously incinerate each Senator’s right of extended debate. Note that I said each Senator. For the damage will devastate not just the minority party. It will cripple the ability of each member to do what each was sent here to do – – represent the people of his or her state. Without the filibuster or the threat of extended debate, there exists no leverage with which to bargain for the offering of an amendment. All force to effect compromise between the two political parties is lost. Demands for hearings can languish. The President can simply rule, almost by Executive Order if his party controls both houses of Congress, and Majority Rule reins supreme. In such a world, the Minority is crushed; the power of dissenting views diminished; and freedom of speech attenuated. The uniquely American concept of the independent individual, asserting his or her own views, proclaiming personal dignity through the courage of free speech will, forever, have been blighted. And the American spirit, that stubborn, feisty, contrarian, and glorious urge to loudly disagree, and proclaim, despite all opposition, what is honest and true, will be sorely manacled.
But, of course, thats not the most over-the-top portion of his
speech; this is:
But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler’s dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that “Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact.” And he succeeded.
Hitler’s originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.
And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate.
This is so outrageous in so many ways that it’s hard to know where to begin. Well, here’s a place, borrowing from the spirit of Byrd’s remarks: one step away from moderate, constitutional government is demonizing your opponents, which makes it difficult to engage in regular legislative give-and-take, and makes every election a potential regime crisis. Since the election of 2000, Democrats seem to have hurled themselves headlong down this path.
And then there’s this: the American system of government is intended to make it difficult for oppressive majorities to form (see Federalist #10), which is not the same thing as to make it easy for intense minorities to obstruct. Yes, there are parchment barriers behind which minorities may shelter, barriers that are of sufficient importance to be "constitutionalized," but the "right" of Senators to speak without ceasing is not one of them. The distinguished Senator from West Virginia needs a sense of proportion.