Defining Checks and Balances

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Saturday that the fight over President Bush's judicial nominees is really a battle between Democrats who believe in checks and balances and Republicans who want everything their way.

"When it comes down to it, stripping away these important checks and balances is about the arrogance of those in power who want to rewrite the rules so that they can get their way," he said in his party's weekly radio address.

Someone should really tell Mr. Reid that checks and balances has nothing to do with party control, rather it's about each of the three branches of government retaining exclusive power over the others while at the same time being checked by those branches.

While it is true that Republicans "want everything their way," as every party inevitably does, such progress isn't being made. Democrats have already blocked 10 of President Bush's nominees to the federal courts and the Republicans are getting frustrated.

By enacting the so-called nuclear option, Republicans can bypass debate and filibusters which they feel have been used in a partisan manner to prevent qualified judges from serving due to ideological differences Democrats don't agree with.

By canning filibusters nominees will simply be sent to the floor for an up or down vote and the first side to collect 51 out of 100 votes wins. With 55 Republicans in the Senate, it's no wonder Democrats fear the nuclear option and the makeup of the federal judiciary.

Their argument that banning filibusters is against limited government is loud, but such a rule change is clearly not unconstitutional. The role of the Senate is to "advise and consent" presidential nominees and the task would be satisfied with a simple majority-wins vote. Even if the confirmed judges all turn out to be hardcore right-wing Republicans, the check of the Senate over the President will be satisfied.