Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

"Save Phil"

Has anyone out there seen this cartoon about “Phil A. Buster”? I am not sure which is worse:

(1) the factual implications that the Founders instituted the filibuster and that it has “worked pretty well for 200 years”;

(2) the apparent assertion that eliminating a procedural rule signals the death knell for our Constitutional structure; or

(3) the condescension that the cartoon shows toward its target audience.

Beginning with the third concern, I have a question. Why would anyone think it is appropriate to use a cartoon to explain their opposition to changing a procedural rule? I am fairly certain that most of us are capable of understanding the arguments for and against the use of filibusters without resorting to caricatures such as “Checks and Balanz.” Cartoons should not take the place of serious constitutional or practical arguments.

As for the former concerns, although the cartoon generally avoids making rebuttable factual assertions, the clear implications are that the Founders instituted the filibuster and that it is central to the separation of powers. Both of these implications are false. First, the filibuster is not in the Constitution and was not used for decades following the founding of the country. In fact, the current rule is only a few decades old. Second, the filibuster has hardly “worked pretty well,” unless, like Senator Byrd, one considers talking for 14 hours in order to block civil rights legislation to be a public good. Contrary to current comparisons to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the filibuster has a less-than-honorable history and, as law professor Jonathan Turley recently noted in USA today, it “is unabashedly and undeniably anti-democratic.”

None of this, of course, tells us whether the rule should or should not be changed. However, if someone has a principled defense of using unlimited debate to prevent Senate floor votes on nominees who could get as many as 58 or 59 votes, I would like to hear it.

Discussions - 13 Comments

I have one thing to say about that cartoon: Pathetic

Let’s be honest, though. The Left uses such tactics so that it doesn’t have to explain or justify itself. After all, its arguments would be shot from the sky by the SAM’s of logic!

Larry, you are right on the money in pointing out the ad’s shameful attempt to equate the filibuster with the principle of checks and balances enshrined in our Constitution by the Founders. What I found particularly amusing, however, is that the better part of the second half of the ad is spent telling the people to contact their congressfolk and tell them to preserve the filibuster. Excuse me, but President Bush has campaigned heavily on his judicial nominees for two election cycles now, each time winning bigger at the ballot box. Isn’t that the ultimate check and balance? If Americans don’t like what the Republicans do, can’t they change their mind in two short years? It’s as if the Dems are saying, "Americans, even though you keep voting more and more to give Republicans majority power, write to those knuckle-dragging GOPers and tell them that you don’t want them preventing Democrats from vetoing the changes you keep electing those Republicans to make."


Kill Phil!!!


Larry, that cartoon reminded me of the Democrats’ "Bushenstein" ad from a couple years back, which might even surpass Phil in the scope of its asininity on the issue of judicial nominees.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Democrats! The truth is something they have no interest in.

But without the filibuster, Mr. Smith would have been sent packing from Washington. Jimmy Stewart’s filibuster is what led Claude Raines to crack under pressure.

Funny Stuff. But not surprising. Move the curtain, and ...well, lookie here.

These Folks are behind this ad. Based on some of the information on their website, an uninformed and misleading campaign is exactly the propoganda we should expect.

I’m surprised the ’bot didn’t have "Property of Halliburton, Inc." stenciled on it.
Also, when the Donkey and Elephant jump on the see-saw, I notice that when it quits moving, there is a slight but noticeable "left" tilt, to the Donkey’s side - cute.

And yes, Republicans even used the now-maligned filibuster to try and stop Richard Paez from the 9th Circuit. Sen. Smith, Republican of NH, even said on the floor of the Senate:

"But don’t pontificate on the floor of the Senate and tell me that somehow I am violating the Constitution of the United States of America by blocking a judge or filibustering a judge that I don’t think deserves to be on the circuit court because I am going to continue to do it at every opportunity I believe a judge should not be on that court. That is my responsibility. That is my advise and consent role, and I intend to exercise it. I don’t appreciate being told that somehow I am violating the Constitution of the United States. I swore to uphold that Constitution, and I am doing it now by standing up and saying what I am saying." (March 7, 2000) Frist voted with Smith on his filibuster.

Yep, but Republicans never did this for multiple candidates using mere ideology as the disqualifier. All of these candidates are qualified...the Left just hasn’t learned to let others take their turn.

Nice try, Phil. The cloture vote on Paez was 85 to 14, with roughly 70% of the Republicans voting for it. A few Republicans tried to hold him up, and were rebuked by their own party. That is not in any way comparable to what Schumer and Durbin and their pals have done.

Even Smith’s comments, taken at face value, are very different in kind from some of these filibusters. Smith referred to "blocking a judge or filibustering a judge that I don’t think deserves to be on the circuit court." Has anyone said this about the Michigan nominees to the Sixth Circuit? No. Their sin is not being related to Carl Levin. At least it can be argued that Smith is taking a principled stand. It’s much harder to defend naked cronyism of the sort the Democrats are currently engaged in.

Are you stupid, Phil? You’re talking about a single renegade Republican doing his best to hold up a nominee he disagreed with. If a single windbag, nutjob Democrat wants to hold up a nominee by talking endlessly, then let him do it and have his say; he’ll have to shut up eventually and then we can vote. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. What we have now is roughly 45 Democrat nutjobs acting in concert to prevent a slate of nominees with clear majority support from ever getting a vote. When did the GOP ever do that? Some Republicans may have held Paez up for awhile, but he ultimately got his vote and was confirmed, and by a majority Republican Senate. A distinct minority of Democrats is currently blocking President Bush’s nominees, something that’s never happened before.

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