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Sam Smith: The GOP And Media Filibuster The Facts

The GOP And Media Filibuster The Facts

By Editor Sam Smith

SAM SMITH, PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - The coverage of the debate over judicial nominations is one more example of the media swallowing hook, line, and sinker the spin of the Bush regime. It is naturally in the Republicans' interest to emphasize the potential use of the filibuster by Democrats who oppose the nominations for it raises the spectre of deeply unfair and anti-democratic forces at play.

In fact, it is nothing of the sort. The filibuster is simply a long way around the barn to reach something perfectly democratic that is not only in keeping with the spirit of a working republic but with our own Constitution: namely reaching a consensus through what is sometimes called a super majority.

One may disagree with the need for a super majority but to suggest that it is anti-democratic is absolutely false. As Senator Boxer has suggested, you could greatly simplify matters and just require a three-fifths vote for confirmation of judicial nominations. There not only is nothing anti-democratic in this; one need look no further than the Constitution itself for precedent.

The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote for impeachment, to expel a senator or to override a veto. It requires the same for approval of a treaty and calls for special majorities if the election of the president is referred to the House. It also requires a two-thirds vote to amend the Constitution followed by ratification of three-quarters of the state legislatures.

What is truly amazing about the above facts is that we found them neatly summarized in a 1997 report of the Republican Policy Committee of the U.S. Senate. The report also notes:

"Madison (always) and Hamilton (sometimes) were in attendance at the convention when these super-majority requirements were adopted, and Madison himself was responsible for some of them. They signed the Constitution. They became its most able advocates. . .

"Finally, we know that both Madison and Hamilton thought super-majorities were sometimes necessary because they advocated them separately. In convention, Madison moved that a vote of two-thirds be required to expel a Senator or Representative. His motion carried 10 States to none. It was also Madison who moved that if the choice of a President should fall to Congress, a quorum must consist of two-thirds.

"Far from being opponents of super-majorities, Madison and Hamilton supported them. They supported them in the Constitution, in The Federalist, and in the convention. They supported them because some rights are 'too important to be exercised by a bare majority of a quorum.'" Given the corruption of our court system by both parties, the right to a fair trial would be an excellent place to observe this principle.

The U.S. is not alone in using super majorities, as Wikipedia summarizes:

"The constitutions of a great many nations provide that they may be amended by the legislature, but only by a special, extra large majority of votes cast (also known as a supermajority, or a "qualified" or "weighted" majority). This is usually a majority of two-thirds the total number of votes cast. In a bicameral parliament it may be required that a special majority be achieved in both chambers of the legislature. In addition, many constitutions require a that an amendment receive the votes of a minimum absolute number of members, rather than simply the support of those present at a meeting of the legislature which is in quorum. For example, the German 'Basic Law' may be amended with the consent of a majority of two-thirds in both the Bundestag and Bundesrat. The constitution of Brazil may be amended with the consent of both houses of Congress by a majority of three-fifths.

So, in the end - despite the gross misrepresentation of the Bush regime sadly reinforced by a faux objective media - what we are really talking about is not the disruption of democratic procedures but their insurance by a firmer consensus than a mere majority. In a country so bitterly divided as ours, a better consensus makes eminent sense. Besides, given what happened in the 2000 and 2004 election, the Republican Party should be the last body in America to lecture us on the virtues of majority rule.



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