Going Nuclear

The White House, its right-wing allies, and some Senate Republicans are waging a pre-emptive war designed to eliminate one important tool at the disposal of senators concerned about extremist Supreme Court nominees – the Senate filibuster.

Ignoring the overwhelming confirmation rate of Bush administration judicial nominees, the administration and its backers have whipped up a dishonest and hypocritical campaign to discredit Senate Democrats’ treatment of Bush nominees. This campaign has employed crude racial politics and outrageous smears, for example accusing opponents of appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada’s confirmation of anti-Hispanic bigotry.

GOP leaders have now put the next step in motion, calling into question the constitutionality of the filibuster, even though both parties have repeatedly used filibusters for decades. The Senate Rules Committee will conduct a hearing this week on one proposal to change Senate rules to effectively eliminate this important procedural protection against the abuse of power by a bare majority acting on an issue of major importance. Sen. Trent Lott has joined the far-right chorus urging GOP leaders to go even further, adopting a “nuclear” strategy and carrying out a naked power play that would ignore Senate rules and lay waste to two hundred years of Senate tradition.

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