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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!
What a shame 28.Apr.2005 13:55

just a citizen

"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." "

These issues are not strategic, they should be everyday matters of business! Why is it that they are being spoken of as if they are merely leverage points in a political power struggle?

Pardon me while I go throw up

The SHAME is the Republicans control the whole thing 28.Apr.2005 14:38

Progressive Democrat

You can puke all you want, but it won't change the fact that the Republicans control the House, the Senate, the White House and 7 out of 9 Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents AND 8 out of 10 of the Circuits controlled by Republican appointed majorities!

AND THAT'S WHY what "should be everyday matters of business" are being "spoken of as if they are merely leverage points in a political power struggle" -- BECAUSE, unfortunately, that's all we got.

When you get through puking, you can maybe figure out how or if you fit into all this. I get lots of criticism here at PIMC telling me that we can't do anything about it, so I should give up my illusions and quit posting anything -- so as, they tell me, to "build a world that you (me? we?) want" as opposed to accepting the matrix version of reality. What is self-actualizing from one point of view maybe is just another delusional system when viewed by someone else.

I can't tell you or anyone else what to do, but I try to post factual material.

Sorry, am I missing something here 28.Apr.2005 14:42

Mike Stepbystpefarm <a> mtdata.com

The Republicans have a majority in the Senate, which would mean that they could pass the rule change IF they could "call the question". But that's what this is all about, isn't it? How many votes it takes to "call the question" in the Senate.

I'm old enough to remember the last time this rule was changed reducing the supermajority required to "call the question" from 2/3 to 3/5 and there was quite the battle then.

So what is this all about? Are there really that many Democratic Senators who (in effect) would be willing to vote for the rule change? And BTW, it is far from clear whether there is actually even a majority in the Senate that would go for this. You can't simply assume (especially on an issue like this) that Senators will vote the party line.

Mike 28.Apr.2005 15:45

Progressive Democrat

Exactly right, to change the rules you have to be able to "call the question" -- which is a real "Catch 22" if the rule you want to change is the cloture rule. But the Republicans have a strategy to avoid that, which is to have Cheney rule that the old cloture rule is unconstitutional. Cheney (as Vice President of the U.S.) presides over the Senate whenever he is present to do so -- so he presumably can make such a ruling, although it would ignore the opinion of the non-partisan Senate parliamentarian. In that way, the Republicans have planned to activate their "nuclear option" on the basis of a bare majority vote.

Mike's other questions: 1) There are NO Democratic senators who are willing to vote for the rule change, probably none that would be willing to vote for any of the eight or so Bush nominees involved in this -- although Democrats, at least some Democrats, have voted for the more than 200 Bush nominees (for the Federal courts) that have been approved so far. 2) No one is assuming that Republicans will all vote for the party line, on the contrary --

From a report from Monday, but now being proven accurate, by blogger "Armando" --

<< The most important statement from Reid, in my opinion, was that he believed that if Frist had the votes in the Senate to push the "nuclear" button, he would have done so TODAY. So when Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the GOP whip, claims that Frist has the votes for the "nuclear option," we should not believe him.

<< Apparently, there are a core of sane Republican Senators who realize the irreparable damage that would be caused by Frist's going "nuclear." These Republicans Senators appear to be Sens. McCain of Arizona, Chafee of RI, Snowe of Maine, Hagel of Nebraska, Collins of Maine, Sununu of New Hampshire, Smith of Oregon, Graham of South Carolina, Lugar of Indiana, Specter of Pennsylvania, Warner of Virginia. . . . The political pressure they are facing must be enormous.

[NOTE: "Smith of Oregon"]

Armando said he was working from a "conference call [Monday] with Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, and several Lefty bloggers."

Mike's general question -- "What's this all about?"

Well, what it's becoming about, no one exactly knows -- but it started out, and still is, about some terribly anti-environment and pro-corporatist Republicans getting appointed to life-time positions in the Circuit Courts of Appeal. I think that it is becoming about whether there are any limits to the power of Bush neo-con control of the Federal government.

Heads Up! 28.Apr.2005 20:39

Slight of hand

These events are in preparation for the coming vote on Social Security.
Bush has already looted Social Security and desperately needs to cover his tracks. Obviously the Democrats could and would filibuster endlessly on a bill to privatize Social Security.

Voters! Time to get your lassos out!

The coming vote on Social Security may just be the match that lights the fuse of the second American Civil War.