I usually avoid talking about politics on this blog. It’s hard to do because I am actually a political junky. I have a love-hate relationship with politics. I find it absolutely fascinating, but sometimes it drives me nuts. I try not to make this blog overtly political, because World Adventurer’s focus has always been on cultural experiences and on whatever tickles my fancy on any given day. I’m glad to have blog readers from all sorts of political persuasions. I try not to impose my own political views. Of course, I occasionally slip up and write something that gives away my own political views, but it’s usually unintentional.
The news today from Capitol Hill is definitely worth writing about. U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans crafted a compromise agreement designed to avoid what is now called "the nuclear option" over President Bush’ judicial nominees. Some Democrats have been threatening to filibuster over some of the president’s judicial nominees, and some Republicans have threatened to change Senate rules so that filibustering cannot be used to hold up votes confirming judicial nominees. Republicans currently do not have enough votes to end filibusters (60 votes), but they have enough votes to change Senate rules to eliminate filibusters (55 votes). The compromise agreement allows some judicial nominees to come up for a vote, while some nominees will still be subject to filibuster. Filibuster rules will also remain unchanged.
Filibustering is a tactic used by the minority party (currently the Democrats) to prevent a vote over a contentious issue. Because the majority party (the Republicans) can approve a resolution by a majority vote, the minority party infrequently use filibusters to prevent a resolution from coming to a vote. As long as debate over an issue continues, a vote cannot be called. Over the years, filibusters have been used by both Democrats and Republicans with mixed success. It’s a battle of wills, and whichever party blinks first wins the battle. Because filibusters often last for days, they sometimes lead to tragi-comic moments. Who can forget (if you were alive in 1957) when Strom Thurmond spoke for an unprecedented 24 hours? Or watching a Senator read from a phone book during a filibuster? A filibuster is a tactic of last resort. It has been used for noble and infamous ends (depending on your political persuasion). Some civil rights legislation was held up by filibuster, as will some judicial nominees. Filibustering is ultimately a political tactic; in and of it is neither good nor bad.
I am happy about this compromise agreement for two reasons. One, the two parties came to an acceptable compromise. 7 Republicans and 7 Democrats put aside their political differences and compromised on a key issue. "Compromise" is now a dirty word in political circles, but promoting bipartisanship is essential to a functioning democracy. Both parties need to work together. Neither side is completely happy with this compromise, but they agree that it is preferrable to resorting to escalation by voting for a "nuclear option." Secondly, an important aspect of our democracy remains intact. For better or for worse, filibustering is an important part of the U.S. political process. The minority party needs to use it with discretion, and the majority party should not undermine it. Republicans and Democrats alike need to remember that at some point in the future their status as minority or majority party will change, and they need to respond based on the principle of the "Golden Rule." In the future, the Republicans will attempt to filibuster on some unforeseen issue, and the Democrats should not undermine this by changing the rules to prohibit filibusters. Filibusters help keep our democracy vibrant and should remain intact, albeit used sparingly.