Monday, April 25, 2005

Fact checking MSNBC

MSNBC gave journalism another try today and succeeded in misleading readers with how the filibuster has been applied in the past. Right now, a minority of 40 Democrats are blocking appeals court judges from getting a floor vote even though the judges have majority support. This has never happened before. Years ago, Senator Byrd changed Senate rules the same kind of legal way the Republicans are getting skewered for proposing and likely putting in place in the next two weeks. Senator Byrd changed the filibuster rule to require a supermajority of 60 votes to end "debate" on judicial nominees, which would move the nominees to the floor for a yes/no vote.

The Republicans are taking incoming fire for proposing to use the "constitutional option" to legally change the filibuster conditions so that a minority can no longer rule the senate. While arguing Republicans have filibustered in the past, MSNBC intentionally leaves out the most important part:
WASHINGTON - With the battle over Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees about to escalate, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Sunday "If what Democrats are doing is wrong today, it won’t be right for Republicans to do the same thing tomorrow."

But history shows that Republicans did something similar to the Democrats' filibusters five years ago.

In 1999 and 2000, before he became majority leader, Frist was one of the Republican senators blocking President Clinton’s nominee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Richard Paez.

Frist and others repeatedly prevented a vote on the Paez nomination. In 1999, Frist and 52 other Republicans voted against a motion to proceed to a vote on Paez.

Six months later, Frist voted against cutting off extended debate — a filibuster — on the nomination.

Then he voted for a motion to postpone a vote on the nomination.

And finally on March 9, 2000, four years after Clinton nominated Paez to the appeals court, Frist was on the losing end of a 59-39 vote on the nomination itself.
What MSNBC omits is that in 1999, Republicans had a majority. While some call this splitting hairs with today's minority Democratic filibuster, the difference makes the argument. You'd expect a majority to act as a majority when their position differs from a President of another party. A majority of Republicans holding up Clinton nominations was reasonable and expected.

But now, a minority of Democrats filibuster is unprecedented in that a minority has NEVER held up judicial nominations with a filibuster. This is the kind of difference that makes it important for Republicans to exercise a legal rule change to end the filibuster conditions the Democrats have used to their advantage and get the Senate to fulfill their duties of securing nominees a vote on the floor. Remember, the Democrats are posturing because Bush's nominees are exactly the kind of judges the Democrats fear - two of them are conservative women. While the Democrats accuse Bush's nominees as "out of the mainstream," the fact is that they are very much in the mainstream, as they have majority support from a majority of the Senators who were elected by a majority of Americans.

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