The other "nuclear option"
Senate majority (Republican) leaders have made it plain that either the Democratic majority must allow the Republicans to appoint Bush's extreme anti-environmental nominees for the Federal judiciary OR the Republicans will go ahead with what they (Republicans) coined as their "nuclear option" -- eliminating the long-standing Senate rule that allows unlimited debate on votes that rise to the level of issues of conscience for the minority. That's what filibusters have generally been about -- issues of conscience -- as when Oregon's Senator Hatfield attempted a one-man filibuster against the development of a neutron bomb back in the 1970's.
It turns out that the Senate Democrats have what they don't call, but could be called, their own "nuclear option." Democrats have made it plain that either the Republican majority must back down and allow vetting of Bush's extremist anti-environmental nominees for the Federal judiciary OR the Democrats will slow the Senate down to a crawl and block all legislation (except for matters of national security). When you look back at the history of this Congress, shutting down all legislation doesn't look like a bad idea. Shutting down the Senate would mean no more of Bush's so-called "reforms" -- bankruptcy "reform", tort "reform" -- and it would preclude any more talk of so-called "Social Security reform."
The Democrats are planning to shift emphasis onto Democratic legislation that represents what people, not corporations, want. Such legislation has little chance of being enacted in a Republican congress and would be vetoed by Bush even if it did get enacted -- but so what? Since the plan is to shut down the Senate anyway, if the filibuster is to be outlawed, then why yield the initiative to the Republicans? Democrats are very much aware that the people have become involved and are watching what happens -- so, they are suggesting, let's widen the agenda beyond just Republican "reforms" and talk about EVERYTHING.
Unfortunately, the "everything" doesn't exactly include the war in Iraq. ALTHOUGH the Democrats do approach the subject of the war through the only way they know how -- as "standing with our troops" -- which Democrats believe is the will of the people. Obviously, however, progressives in the congress will seek to point out that the best way to stand with our troops is to scrap the Bush neo-con strategy so as to point the way back home before more of our troops become casualties. (AND before more innocent Iraqi children die and more of our children's futures are sacrificed to finance all of Bush's evil insanity on the backs of future generations!)
Press release from the office of Senator Reid (D-Nevada), Democratic leader in the Senate --
<< As a matter of comity, the Minority in the Senate traditionally defers to the Majority in the setting of the agenda. If Bill Frist pulls the nuclear trigger, Democrats will show deference no longer.
<< Invoking a little-known Senate procedure called Rule XIV, last week Democrats put nine bills on the Senate calendar that seek to help America fulfill its promise.
<< If Republican's break the rules Democrats will use the rule to bring to the Senate floor an agenda that meets the needs of average Americans, such as lowering gas prices, reducing the cost of health care and helping veterans.
"Across the country, people are worried about things that matter to their families - the health of their loved ones, their child's performance in schools, and those sky high gas prices," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. "But what is the number one priority for Senate Republicans? Doing away with the last check on one-party rule in Washington to allow President Bush, Senator Frist and Tom Delay to stack the courts with radical judges. If Republicans proceed to pull the trigger on the nuclear option, Democrats will respond by employing existing Senate rules to push forward our agenda for America."
<< Democrats have introduced bills that address America's real challenges.
<< 1. Women's Health Care (S. 844). "The Prevention First Act of 2005" will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions by increasing funding for family planning and ending health insurance discrimination against women.
<< 2. Veterans' Benefits (S. 845). "The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2005" will assist disabled veterans who, under current law, must choose to either receive their retirement pay or disability compensation.
<< 3. Fiscal Responsibility (S. 851). Democrats will move to restore fiscal discipline to government spending and extend the pay-as-you-go requirement.
<< 4. Relief at the Pump (S. 847). Democrats plan to halt the diversion of oil from the markets to the strategic petroleum reserve. By releasing oil from the reserve through a swap program, the plan will bring down prices at the pump.
<< 5. Education (S. 848). Democrats have a bill that will: strengthen head start and child care programs, improve elementary and secondary education, provide a roadmap for first generation and low-income college students, provide college tuition relief for students and their families, address the need for math, science and special education teachers, and make college affordable for all students.
<< 6. Jobs (S. 846). Democrats will work in support of
legislation that guarantees overtime pay for workers and sets a fair minimum wage.
<< 7. Energy Markets (S. 870). Democrats work to prevent Enron-style market manipulation of electricity.
<< 8. Corporate Taxation (S. 872). Democrats make sure companies pay their fair share of taxes to the U.S. government instead of keeping profits overseas.
<< 9. Standing with our troops (S. 11). Democrats believe that putting America's security first means standing up for our troops and their families
"Abusing power is not what the American people sent us to Washington to do. We need to address real priorities instead -- fight for relief at the gas pump, stronger schools and lower health care costs for America's families," said Senator Reid.
If the filibuster is to be thrown out from the Senate rules, the Republicans CAN -- if they dare -- move on from that to strong-arm all of the Democrats' legislation out of the way by stopping all debate on anything and everything. That's what has already happened in the House, where the new rules put into place early this year have precluded any input from the Democrats into House proceedings -- except for the Ethics Committee, which remained half Democrat with the result that the Democrats, (with lots of public support), were recently able to force the House to return to the original rules for ethics investigations.
Thus, IF the Republicans dare, they can do whatever they want since they are the majority, and they can even stop all debate! BUT, Democrats will then be poised to take the issues, one by one, to the American people and say --
"THIS is what the Republicans refuse to even talk about: women's health care, veterans' benefits, fiscal responsibility, the price of gas, education, jobs, energy, taxation of multinational corporations, and, standing with our troops."
There are two other Democratic proposals that deserve mention:
"Count Every Vote Act" -- introduced by senators Boxer and Clinton.
"Employee Free Choice Act" to protect a worker's right to organize -- promoted by Senator John Edwards.
My opinion is that the people are actually making themselves heard. Maybe the people really are capable of thinking and caring about what's going on -- that's causing all of the politicians, Democrats and Republicans, to rethink everything.
I don't know if this tendency toward democracy is going to last, or if it will be co-opted by corporate media. I remember Dennis Kucinich when it was painfully obvious that Kerry would become the Democratic nominee -- they asked him, "Are you going to concede now?" Dennis replied: "NO, NEVER STOP, NEVER QUIT." I realize Kucinich was backed into a luke-warm lesser-evil position after the Democratic convention -- but he hasn't quit! NEVER QUIT! KEEP THE PRESSURE ON!
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