Tuesday, April 7, 2009


You may have heard about this:

Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era. A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to “go nuclear” over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents.

Already Koh is getting the smear treatment we saw with Chas Freeman.

The Scott Horton quotation above came via Hilzoy, who added as a final thought to a great post the following:

[T]his is one more piece of evidence that the Senate is broken. It needs to change its rules. I support keeping the filibuster for judicial nominations, which are for life. I can imagine a world with a sane opposition in which I would support keeping it generally. But this is not that world. At the very least, the rules need to be changed to force people who want to filibuster to actually be present in the Senate chamber.

The "Filibusters Gone Wild" meme has been bouncing around for a while now. As a government and politics geek, I admit I am a fan of the filibuster. It's one of those quirky things I love--see this episode of the West Wing, where a Senator whose grandchild is autistic filibusters a bill that didn't fund child autism and eventually gets the help of other Senate grandfathers, for a sappy take on how it can be great. Even without the "save the children!" storyline, though, I just love the concept. It's such a crazy bastard thing to have in the rules--and I'm a sucker for the crazy (principled) bastard mythos of Senators--that it just makes me happy.

I wrote a paper back in high school when the Republicans were threatening to eliminate the filibuster defending it. My selfish instinct is to keep defending it. I must agree, though, that the filibustering of every damn thing that moves in the Senate is stupid, counterproductive, and mean-spirited and it has to stop. Not to mention we don't seem to have too many principled crazy bastards around anymore, just lunatics. (The only person who comes close that I can think of is Ted Kennedy.)I don't know if there's a way to amend the filibuster rules to keep it available on all forms of legislation while making it impossible to abuse it the way it has been, but if one can be found I would be all in favor of it.

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