May 08, 2003

Don't Senators READ the Constitution?

Newsday reports (hat tip: the Volokh Conspiracy) that the Republicans in the Senate, tiring of the Democratic filibuster of President Bush's judicial nominees, are considering either taking the issue to court, or rewriting the rules so that 60 votes are not needed to end a filibuster.

I am just stunned that the Senators are even considering taking this issue to the courts. Shouldn't it be a requirement for office that the Senators have at least read the parts of the Constitution that define the powers of the Senate? The courts cannot have any say in the rules of the Senate, because the Constitution reserves to each chamber of Congress the power to set its own rules. This is cut and dried, and if they try this, the justices should not grant certiori.

Now, changing the rules within the Senate is just fine. The idea behind having 60 votes to end debate is that it would prevent a slim majority from voting on bills as soon as they were proposed, so as to keep the opposition from attempting to convince anyone to change their vote. However, the Senators of both parties have abused this to the point that it has become a way of making any controversial decision require a supermajority. I'm not convinced that this is necessarily bad, as long as the Senators are acting like Senators instead of party hacks, but sadly they more often act like party hacks. In any case, it is within both reason and the Constitution for the Senate to change its rules in such a way that the filibusters won't be sustainable.

In the longer term, I think that it would be wise for the States to change the Constitution so that, when "advise and consent" is called for, the Congress is assumed to have consented unless it votes to withdraw its consent within some reasonable time. Actually, if this were the rationale for the States to call for a Convention, I think that the Congress would pass an Amendment fairly quickly, in order to forestall a full Convention. I doubt that any of the Representatives or Senators want a Convention called. Just think of the threat it would represent to their sinicure...

Posted by Jeff at May 8, 2003 10:19 AM | Link Cosmos
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