Monday, May 23, 2005

The Nuclear Option Betrayal

I was reading a post by Bruce Ackerman which stated that the "Nuclear Option" to destroy the filibuster is a betrayal by Dick Cheney to ignore the rules of the Senate. He describes Rule V (point 2), which states, "The rules of the Senate shall continue from one Congress to the next Congress unless they are changed as provided in these rules." [Emphasis mine.] He then goes on to state that this requires 67 votes, but does not provide a reference. My first reaction was that it was wishful thinking from a fellow liberal. Being the studious nerd that I am, I felt it necessary to look this up to see if it is, in fact, the case.

From the Senate's homepage, I eventually found the page for the Rules of the Senate. The relevant rule is Rule XXII, Precedence of Motions. Point 2 begins by stating that 16 Senators must sign a motion to bring to close any debate. It then goes on as follows:

"Is it the sense of the Sentate that the debate shall be brought to a close?" And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn--except on a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules, in which case the necessary affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the Senators present and voting--then said measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of." [Emphasis mine.]

As President of the Senate, it is the duty of Dick Cheney to enforce these rules. This rule explicitly states that it would take 67 votes to end the discussion to change the Senate rules. I am aghast. Ackerman was exactly correct. Apparently, the Administration believes in a strict, literal interpretation of the laws of the land (e.g., the Constitution), except when they stand to benefit. This really shouldn't surprise me, but it does that they are doing this so openly and brashly.

This is simple proof (for anyone who was still in doubt) that the Republican party (in its current incarnation) cares more for power than for the rule of law.

Update: I should note, of course, that the Rules of the Senate are not legal bindings. It is, of course, the President of the Senate's duty to enforce them. However, if he chooses not to do so, he has not violated any law. That prevents this from being an impeachable offense. Rather, it is just an egregious one.


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