Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Bipartisan Plea

There was a GREAT editorial in the STRIB this AM. Two former Minnesota US Senators joining together to preserve the Senate and it's historical process. Republican Dave Durenburger and Democrat and former Vice President Walter Mondale on the same page. That itself is a a breaking news story. Let's see what they have to say.
The American people should know that the proposed repeal of the filibuster rule for judicial nominees by majority vote will profoundly and permanently undermine the purpose of the U.S. Senate as it has stood since Thomas Jefferson first wrote the Senate's rules. We join together, across party lines, in an urgent plea of support for the current Senate rules.
Now others dispute whether it is in fact a break from tradition. The rules have been tinkered with over the years. But the main premise is accurate, and their description of the body's function, it it's true purpose can't go unnoticed:
Today's rules allow a screening of judges by the Senate. Most presidential nominees are confirmed, but there are always a few instances where the nominee is unable to obtain the Senate's approval. We think this process has been good for the judiciary and good for the country. This Senate rule has led to a stronger, less partisan, truly independent court. Weaknesses in judicial nominees are usually exposed in bipartisan Judiciary Committee hearings. If presidential pressure forces a partisan vote on the floor, you can often count on a bipartisan vote on the floor not to confirm. Both of us have seen this happen and value this exercise of checks and balances.
The words of party elders should speak volumes. I hope those in a position of influence take head.

The authors then give a hometown example of success.
Partly as a result of such checks and balances, our Minnesota federal bench has been recognized for decades as among the strongest in the nation. Minnesotans nominated to the federal appellate bench have outstanding records and include Warren Burger, former Gov. Luther Youngdahl and Justice Harry Blackmun. In our time, two Minnesotans were nominated by Republican presidents to the Supreme Court and confirmed by Democratic Senate majorities. In 1979, with a Democratic president and Senate, and two Republican senators from Minnesota, we agreed that a "Minnesota balance" could best be struck if President Jimmy Carter nominated both Democrat Diana Murphy and Republican Robert Renner to District Court vacancies. All of these appointments were confirmed under the current debate rules that Senate leaders now want to eliminate.
The warm fuzzy editorial take a turn into reality, as the two Senators call it as they see it.
Now, this administration believes it should have a right that no president has ever had in our history, to demand that his judges be confirmed by a strict party-line whip system. The recent attacks on federal judges, many of whom already are conservative Republicans nominated and confirmed during 16 years of Republican presidents and 14 years of Republican Senate majorities, propose a new type of judge, compliant with religious and political tests that would radically undermine America's ideal of an independent judiciary.
We have a system that works. A process that respects minority rights and protects the electorate. A system that allows for honest debate, a moderation of impulse, and built in chek's and balances. IN the words of two former Minnesota Senators
Let's keep it this way.

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