So Long, Filibuster, And Thanks For All The Fish

The big news today is that Senate Democrats voted to remove the filibuster for judicial and executive branch nominees.  Supreme Court nominees and laws are still subject to filibuster rules.

Good riddance, I say.  Ideally, the filibuster would be used sparingly and would require a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” level oratory to prevent a nominee from coming up for a vote, but that has long not been the case.  So be done with it.  In its present form, it only serves to prevent the party in power from ruling effectively.  You may think the nominees are spawn from the pit of hell, but that’s the consequences of elections.  The nominees reflect the priorities of the ruling party to enforce the laws.  Your opportunity to do something about it was lost at the voting booth.  Now you can just write blog posts to complain about it.

In response, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY jelly) threatened to do away with the filibuster completely if he ever became Majority Leader again.  It is amazing to me how people ignore Mitch McConnell.  You want to know what Republicans are up to, just listen to Mitch.  Trust him when he says that’s what he’s going to do.  If you think the filibuster should stay for Supreme Court nominees or laws, do not vote Republican.

But now that judicial nominees are filibuster-proof, it’s time to change some other things.  There should be a law that limits the terms of judges.  This includes Supreme Court justices.  I would be perfectly fine with removing the filibuster of Supreme Court nominees if there were term limits imposed on them.  Maybe 10 years?  I’d even be ok with multiple terms.  It baffles me that one of the co-equal branches of government has no term limits.  Giving someone that much power for life is not good for democracy.  Filibusters are stupid, lifetime appointments are stupider.  Maybe removing the filibuster will get both parties to realize the real evil of lifetime judicial appointments and give impetus to act.

4 thoughts on “So Long, Filibuster, And Thanks For All The Fish

  1. Jaime

    It is amazing how Tea partiers always talk about the intentions of our “Founding Fathers”. They of course completely ignore the fact that the concept of “Service” to the country serving as a Legislator, Judge or Higher office was always meant as a “Part Time” job. They also completely forget that the founding fathers were all Rich White men. Who had Farms, Plantations and Businesses to run. “Service” was never meant to be a Full time job in some cases spanning 6 decades.

    I would be all for bumping up Representatives to six years and Senators to 12. But they only get ONE term. That’s it. One and done, No more Election cycles. To keep some continuity, you would split up the house and senate into Thirds, so there would be a House election every two Years and Senate every Four (Aligned with Presidential Elections)

    With some Quick Excel work, I’ve calculated that the Average supreme court justice served 16.53 years. 49 Died in office, 36 Retired, 19 Resigned . That being said it would be fair if All Federal Judges (Including Supreme court) would serve no more than 12 years and Retirement age is 65.

    I think the Texas model of Filibustering should be used. You must stand and you can’t leave. Now I’m sure some clever Senator would figure out that he could always just say “I yield the floor to the Esteemed Senator from Red State X” who will just pick up the filibustering where he left off. I call this tag team Filibuster.

    Now since our government is set up to effectively perpetuate their jobs, none of this will ever happen. But its nice to dream.

    Reply
  2. Steven Scott

    Forgive my ignorance, but I seem to remember that the point of supreme court judges serving for life was so that they wouldn’t be swayed by any political party. If they can be re-elected, then that means they might try to curry political favor, and you know there will be some interests out there who will subtly try to offer somebody something.

    If they can only serve one term, I wonder how many of them would become lobbyists after the fact? What if they go back to practicing law? What if they ran for public office? It seems like there are a lot of potential abuses just waiting to spring up.

    Look, I know there are some jurists on there that we wish weren’t there. I think that goes without saying, no matter if you are a Liberal or a Tea Partier. However, the changes you guys suggest seem crazy to me. I think the reason it is possible to respect the rulings of the Supreme Court is because they exist far above the political landscape and can weight things based supposedly purely on whether or not they are Constitutional.

    Reply
    1. Jean-Paul Post author

      And what, the Supremes (and district court judges) aren’t swayed by the political parties that put them there in the first place? It may or may not have been the original intention to use lifetime appointments as a check against political pressure, but it has never actually accomplished that.

      What if they become lobbyists? So what. How is that less bad than a lifetime appointment where you get to have a very cozy relationship with lobbyists without any risk of reprisal? I don’t understand how practicing law or running for public office is a big deal. Plus, they already can and have done all of those things. Judges retire for various reasons all the time, not just because they’re old. Supremes attempted Presidential and Vice Presidential bids fairly regularly in the history of the United States, just not recently.

      The Supreme Court only exists far above the political landscape in people’s fantasies. In the real world, they have all of the same foibles and weaknesses as any other human and the ability to filter for the worst of those foibles via term limits seems like a much better course of action.

      Reply
  3. Steven Scott

    Once they are there though, they are free to make up their own minds…and history is also rife with justices changing their ideologies over the course of their servitude.

    Politics aren’t the same as they once were. One of if not the reason there is so much partisanship and a lack of compromise is because everybody in Washington is CONSTANTLY running either for their own office or for the one they want in the future.

    But hey, don’t take my word for it…take Professor of Law William G. Ross’s (http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/04/legal-scholarship-highlight-presidential-ambitions-of-supreme-court-justices/)…

    “An open campaign by a sitting Justice today would be virtually impossible because Rule 4.5(A) of Canon 4 of the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct requires a judge to resign upon becoming a candidate for non-judicial office. Similarly, it would be almost impossible for any Justice today to conduct a covert campaign for the presidency. Such campaigns were possible until the middle of the twentieth century because most delegates until then were selected by party organizations, permitting Justices such as McLean, Chase, Miller and Field to quietly line up support among delegates without attracting public attention. Today, of course, the presidential primary system virtually precludes covert candidacies…”

    “It is still possible, however, that a Justice might harbor presidential ambitions and resign from the Court if her prospects began to seem favorable enough for her to announce her candidacy. Such ambition could severely damage the Court because the perception that any Justice was adjusting her opinions to suit her presidential ambitions easily could erode public faith in judicial independence. A Justice also might be suspected of allowing her presidential ambitions to influence her votes on certiorari petitions insofar as she might wish to rule upon – or avoid – a politically sensitive issue. This would tend to diminish public confidence in the integrity of judicial opinions, which is the ultimate source of the Court’s power and influence. As Yale Law Professor Alexander Bickel once warned, the Court needs to stand above political involvement precisely because the constitutional issues that it addresses so often have political dimensions.”

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