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E-M:/ EarthJustice on the "Nuclear Option" on judicial nominations
- Subject: E-M:/ EarthJustice on the "Nuclear Option" on judicial nominations
- From: "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2005 18:02:26 -0400
- Delivered-to: email@example.com
- Delivered-to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- List-name: Enviro-Mich
- Reply-to: "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <email@example.com>
April 22, 2005
From: Earthjustice, Glenn
Sugameli, Senior Legislative Counsel
Cat Lazaroff, Press Secretary, 202-667-4500 x 213/cell:
- Phone 202-667-4500 x 221
200 Years of Precedent Could Fall Prey to Political
Senate prepares to violate own rules to eliminate
vital safeguard of independent courts
Our nation?s fundamental safeguards depend on federal courts that
function independently and outside of partisan politics. Yet Senate
Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) is currently pushing to convince
Senators to vote in favor of overturning long-standing rules that allow
the Senate to block unqualified and politically-motivated nominations to
lifetime seats on the federal bench. Frist?s proposal would eliminate the
ability of 41 or more Senators to filibuster any current or future
nominee for a lifetime federal judgeship.
Senator Trent Lott (R-MS),who authored the plan, called it the ?nuclear
option? because it would violate long-standing Senate rules and destroy
the bipartisanship that the Senate needs to function. Senate Judiciary
Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) has called it
Senate rules permit filibusters of judicial nominees and require a
two-thirds majority of the Senate to approve rule changes. The nuclear
option would use a simple majority of Senators to change the Senate rule
that governs cloture on filibusters, which has never before been changed
in such a manner.
The nuclear option would require overruling the Senate's parliamentarian,
who has concluded that Sen. Frist's plan is wrong and would violate the
Senate?s rules. As The Hill newspaper noted in reporting this:
?When he was majority leader, Lott appointed the parliamentarian, Alan
Frumin, after firing his predecessor, Bob Dove.? A recent report by the
non-partisan Congressional Research Service confirmed that ?would require
the chair to overturn previous precedent.?
Opposition to the ?nuclear option? is broad-based, including those who
oppose and those who support the current judicial nominee filibusters,
both conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans. Columnist
George Will, former Senators Jim McClure (R-ID) and Malcom Wallop (R-WY),
Gun Owners of America, and the anti-union National Right to Work
Committee oppose the nuclear option, as do a wide range of environmental,
civil rights, labor, and other groups.
Previous Senate filibusters successfully blocked Abe Fortas? nomination
to Chief Justice of the United States in 1968; Sam Brown?s nomination to
Ambassador in 1994; and the nomination of Henry Foster to be Surgeon
General in 1995. Many of the Senators who are now claiming that
filibusters of judicial nominees are unconstitutional voted to filibuster
the latter two nominations.
In fact, the Senate rules permitting the current filibusters and those
against Fortas, Brown, and Foster, are founded on the identical
provisions of the Constitution. The Rules Clause provides that
?[e]ach House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its Proceedings,?
and the Appointments Clause authorizes judicial and executive branch
nominations, stating that the President ?shall have the Power, by and
with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors,
other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all
other Officers of the United States.?
There are no compelling reasons for changing the filibuster rule. Sen.
Patrick Leahy (D-VT), ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee,
has announced that Democrats will not filibuster the president?s
controversial nomination of Thomas Griffith to the D.C. Circuit U.S.
Court of Appeals. President Bush has been extraordinarily successful in
his efforts to place lifetime judges on our courts. The number of
confirmed lifetime federal judgeships is higher than it has been in more
than a decade, and with 205 confirmed lifetime judges and a 95%
The Constitution?s requirement that the Senate must confirm the
president?s nominations is a vital check and balance on the president and
on the lifetime members of the third branch of government, our
independent judiciary. Eliminating the ability to filibuster would apply
to all future nominees, including those whose records show that they are
unqualified, extremely biased or unethical.
To defeat a filibuster, 60 Senators must be willing to vote to end debate
on a bill or a nominee. This provides a valuable safeguard that prevents
a narrow majority from forcing its priorities on all Americans.
The American judiciary was established to rise above partisan politics
and operate independently, to fairly interpret and enforce the statutes
and and Constitution of the United States. Environmental safeguards
depend on independent, fair-minded judges who impartially interpret the
law, and are not rubber stamps for any political agenda.
We hope you will join the Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Houston
Chronicle, Wichita Eagle, Washington Post, Cincinnati Enquirer, New York
Times, Indianapolis Star and over 170 other newspapers in opposing
the nuclear option that would violate the Senate rules in order to
eliminate the Senate?s right to filibuster unacceptable judicial
For more information on judicial nominees and the right to filibuster,
Alex J. Sagady & Associates
Environmental Enforcement, Permit/Technical Review, Public Policy,
Evidence Review and Litigation Investigation on Air, Water and
Waste/Community Environmental and Resource Protection
PO Box 39, East Lansing, MI 48826-0039
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org