There are two things we can hope for: That there's still a shred of compassion among the public for what the Democrats stand for - and that those on our side of the aisle grow a spine and throw the GOP smacktalk back in their fat faces.
Senate GOP set to go 'nuclear' over judges
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans, boldly confident after their Nov. 2 electoral success, are preparing to end months of frustrating delays over President Bush's judicial picks by hitting Democrats with Republican's ultimate legislative weapon.
But the Republican threat to neuter long-cherished filibuster rules by steamrolling Democrats is risky - so potentially destructive that Capitol Hill calls it the "nuclear option." Democratic retaliation would be swift and long-lasting, raising the prospect of escalating clashes in a body that prides itself on gentility and cool judgment.
Even so, Republican leaders are signaling their intent to go nuclear in word and deed.
"We're going to use every tool we possibly can," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who also unveiled a kinder, gentler phrase for the potential rules change: the "constitutional option."
The nuclear option would be a last resort if other measures fail, said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who will likely play a central role in the debate as a member of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Constitution subcommittee.
Cornyn argues that judicial filibusters unconstitutionally require a 60-vote supermajority to approve nominees, not the simple majority mandated in the Constitution.
"Democrats must stop not only for the good of the Senate but out of respect to the president, who received almost 60 million votes on November 2, and out of respect for the Constitution itself," Cornyn said. "No group of senators has the right, no minority has the right to tyrannize the majority of the Senate."
The nuclear option would begin with Frist taking the Senate floor to seek a ruling from the presiding officer, likely to be Vice President Dick Cheney in his role as Senate president, to determine whether judicial filibusters violate the Constitution.
Cheney's affirmative response would initiate a vote on changing the filibuster rule which also would be subject to a filibuster unless Cheney over- rules the Senate parliamentarian on whether normal debate rules apply. Then, only 51 votes would be needed for approval.
Another option includes changing Senate guidelines to disallow judicial filibusters, which also would require the Senate president to declare that normal filibuster rules do not apply, so 51 votes could prevail. Changing Senate rules should occur early in the session to gain legitimacy, some Republicans say, making this option potentially less appealing.
Either way, it would be pure power politics, leaving Democrats unable to respond. Other Senate rules, however, would give the minority party plenty of opportunity to express its anger in the months, and years, to follow.