Once again, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) shows its inability to understand conservatives when, in its release today of the Family Research Council (FRC)‘s “Justice Sunday,” Executive Director Matt Foreman writes, “there is no difference between the leaders of America’s anti-gay industry and those leading the anti-filibuster campaign. They are one in the same.”
Foreman’s comments show a tremendous misunderstanding of the American conservative moment, indeed, of today’s of Republican Party. It is not nearly as narrow as he thinks. To be sure, as this Justice Sunday rally showed, most social conservatives, a number of them with strong anti-gay views, are helping lead the anti-filibuster campaign. But, many others leading this campaign, including a number of elected Republicans and representatives of conservative legal organizations, are far from anti-gay. Some are strict constructionists, others libertarian. They merely like most of individuals the president has appointed who, as judges, would apply the law rather than legislate from the bench.
Many other supporters of the anti-filibuster campaign oppose filibustering the president’s judicial nominees because we want to stop Democratic obstructionism in the Senate. At the same time, we are troubled by the rhetoric that Christian conservatives are using in this campaign. Cathy Young calls FRC event a “grotesque religio-political circus.”
I am not the only opponent of the filibuster who is not part of what Foreman calls “American’s anti-gay industry.” In an editorial this morning, “Nuke the Filibuster,” “THE LA TIMES” editorialists also oppose Senate Democrats’ tactics, writing
Practically every big-name liberal senator you can think of derided the filibuster a decade ago but now sees the error of his or her ways and will go to amusing lengths to try to convince you that the change of heart is explained by something deeper than the mere difference between being in the majority and being in the minority.
While hardly seeing “eye to eye with the far right on social issues” and while opposing “some of these judicial nominees,” “THE TIMES” urges “Republican leaders to press ahead with their threat to nuke the filibuster.” Indeed, the TIMES wants the Senate to go further and “nuke the filibuster for all legislative purposes.”
“THE TIMES” also notes the preposterous posturing of our state’s Junior Senator:
It’s no accident that most filibusters have hindered progressive crusades in Washington, be it on civil rights or campaign finance reform. California’s Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, one of those recent converts to the filibuster, embarrassed herself by hailing Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) as her inspiration at a pro-filibuster rally. At least Byrd is being consistent in his support he filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
While the “LA TIMES” favors an abolition of the filibuster, David Broder of “THE WASHINGTON POST” thinks Democrats should cut a deal, agreeing “voluntarily to set aside the continued threat of filibustering the seven Bush appointees to the federal appeals courts who were blocked in the last Congress and whose names have been resubmitted.” While, if I were a Senator, I would surely vote to end filibusters for judicial nominees, I think Broder offers a good compromise. “THE POST” reports today that the Senate’s two top Democrats, Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), are considering a compromise similar to the one Broder recommended.
If used judiciously, the filibuster could give the minority party a chance to assert itself and press for important compromises. Yet, as our nation’s history shows, just over forty years ago, Southern Democrats used it to block important legislation which, when eventually enacted, helped further racial progress. In the present circumstances, Democrats might have succeeded in blocking the most conservative of the nominees, such as former Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor, Jr. who confirmation I oppose. Instead, Democrats have used the filibuster to block ten of the President’s appellate court nominees. (It has confirmed 35.)
I tend to agree with the “LA TIMES” analysis of the filibuster, yet while generally supporting the president’s nominees to the federal bench, do believe that he has nominated one or two who may be a tad too far to the right for my taste. A gay conservative lawyer friend alerted me to the Pryor’s anti-gay record. (Please note, unlike some gay bloggers, I do not use the term, “anti-gay” loosely.) I think the president made a mistake in nominating him and would prefer that he not be confirmed. He appears to be the most extreme of the bunch.
If this compromise does not go through and the Senate votes on the “nuclear option,” amending its rules to prevent filibusters of judicial nominees, I fear that the Senate will confirm Pryor to the Eleventh Circuit.
The Democrats should have ended their obstruction long ago and reserved the filibuster for the most extreme cases, like Pryor. The leaders of the nation’s minority party need to understand, as Broder (no Republican shill he) why they must make the ““first step to end what he calls “the filibuster fracas“
The principled answer is that elections matter. Voters placed Republicans in control of the White House and the Senate, and while the opposition still has a constitutional role to play, at the end of the day that function has to be more than talking important matters to deaths to death.
Whether Democrats like it or not, a majority of American voters last fall reelected George W. Bush as president while giving the GOP larger majorities in both Houses of Congress. Our great constitution gives the president the power (with the advise and consent of Congress) to appoint federal judges. Democrats can’t go on pretending that the American people really wanted something different when they cast their votes. They reelected a Republican president and Republican majorities after a long campaign where a host of issues were raised, discussed and debated.
It may be too late for the Democrats to compromise. I agree with the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto who, in his Best of the Web column today, writes, “If the Dems had offered a compromise earlier, they might have had a good chance of prevailing.” Should this compromise fail, the Democrats have only themselves to blame. They need to stop obstructing and recognize that they are the minority party and work accordingly with the majority, distasteful as that may seem to them.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
Let me recommend very strongly Cathy Young’s
UPDATE: My former U-VA Law school Federalist (and current law professor) Todd Zywicki has some thoughts here on the filibuster. And while you’re over at the Volokh Conpsiracy, check out their other thoughtful posts on the filibuster.
UPDATE #2 In this comment, Sean, a reader, noted that NGLTF Executive Director Matt Foreman referred to the “LEADERS (his emphasis) of America’s anti-gay industry and those LEADING (again his emphasis) the anti-filibuster campaign.” After reading his words, I realized that the transition in the original post did not accurately reflect Foreman’s words, so I added a new paragraph, now the second of the post and revised what is now the third paragraph. Thanks, Sean, for keeping me on my toes.