As the conflict in Iraq winds down, President George W. Bush has turned some of his attention back to national affairs, working on refining his tax cuts and struggling to save the sputtering economy.
While building up the judicial branch, Bush has encountered major roadblocks in making judicial appointments. Bush is faulting Senate Democrats for filibustering some of his judicial nominations, including Priscilla Owen and Miguel Estrada. Owen, a Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Estrada, a native Honduran currently in private practice, carry with them extremely conservative records, raising strong objections among Senate Democrats.
President Bush has joined the Senate Republicans’ endorsement for “filibuster reform.” Initiated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), such reform would successively reduce the majority needed to block a filibuster as each vote is taken. Democrats have insisted that the Republicans are approving judiciary nominations too rapidly, with judiciary vacancies being at their lowest in a decade.
The act of filibustering – using prolonged speechmaking for the purpose of delaying legislative action – has historically been used substantially by both parties. Although frustrating to those who claim it slows efficiency in our government, filibustering is a part of the checks and balances system that militates against power being concentrated in one part, or one person, in the government.
Disputes concerning judicial nominations stretch back to Congress’ rejection of John Rutledge, nominated by George Washington for chief justice of the United States. The constitutional system of checks and balances that permits filibustering has benefited both parties in past decades and Bush’s attempts to remove this check would only serve a short-term benefit for the Republican party.
Judiciary votes and filibusters are both grave matters which ought to be conducted by the Senate without presidential influence, in the spirit of what is best for the country and not for temporary gain.
U-Wire Stanford University, California