Wednesday, May 18, 2005

One Constituent's Option - Beat Some Sense into the Senate

Isaiah 1:17-19 (King James Version)

17 “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
19If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.”

Isn’t there any middle ground in the congressional battle over judicial nominees and filibusters? Apparently not.

By now almost everyone in America has heard the Republican proposal of the “nuclear option” to end the threat of Democratic filibusters to block judicial nominees put forth by the president.

The Democratic leadership has put their position this way:

“But Reid of Nevada said the thought of eliminating the filibuster option is just another sign of the “arrogance of power of this Republican administration.”

“It's not enough that they come to the people's body and say 'let's take our chances by a fair ballgame. “They're going to change the rules in the middle of the ballgame,” Reid said. “This administration is unwilling to play by the rules ... the filibuster is a critical tool in keeping the majority in check.”

Senate majority leader Bill Frist advanced the Republican position with these remarks earlier today:

“Mr. President, I rise today as the leader of the majority party of the Senate.
But I do not rise for party. I rise for principle.
I rise for the principle that judicial nominees with the support of a majority of senators deserve up-or-down votes on this floor.
Debate the nominee for five hours. Debate the nominee for 50 hours.
Vote for the nominee. Vote against the nominee.
Confirm the nominee. Reject the nominee.
But, in the end, vote.
Senators, colleagues, let’s do our duty and vote.
Judicial nominees deserve an up-or-down vote.”

Now I won’t even pretend to know how to fix this ugly mess; I’m at a loss. But I believe it needs fixing badly.

Both sides claim they are acting out of principle. I don’t for a moment believe that. As I see it from my pristine little perch in the Kansas Flint Hills, this is all about power. One side is in power now and intends to use it. The other, a former political powerhouse, is trying desperately to re-establish themselves as power brokers in the American political process. That’s made this all a toxic political mess.

Surely there has to be some reasonable option that would satisfy both sides. Constituents like me on both sides of the political aisle spend a good part of our time compromising. It’s really not a bad thing at all. It is, among other things, one of the elements that holds marriages together. I mean, we who have been married for some time know that the family that prays together stays together and the family that compromises also stays together.

Businesses often find avenues of compromise so that commerce doesn’t grind to a halt. I can’t tell you the number of times I heard in business meetings something like this. “I know there is a “best way” to do this, but since we can’t seem to find it right now, let’s not let best get in the way of better.” In other words, “Let’s get moving. Our customers and shareholders expect nothing less of us.”

It’s sensible. It really is

I’d like to think that we’ve sent adults to Capital Hill to represent us. But, after seeing events unfold recently, I’m less inclined to think so. Both sides are making me feel like we need to take out a “whoopin’ stick” and go to Washington, en masse, and beat some sense into them, the filibuster, and the nuclear option in one fell swoop.

Enough of the empty “principle” talk, senators. Get with the program. Find a way to make it work for all of us. We pay you a helluva’ lot of money to do that sort of thing.

We’re not asking you to abandon principle; we’re simply asking you to find a way to make government work. That’s not too much to ask.

Perhaps these words from Father Richard John Neuhaus might help:

“Democracy is the product not of a vision of perfection but of the knowledge of imperfection. In this view, compromise is not an immoral act, nor is it an amoral act. That is, the one who compromises does not step out of her role as a moral actor. To the contrary, the person who makes a compromise is making a moral judgment about what is to be done when moral judgments are in conflict.”

Come on boys and girls, learn to become men and women. Stop acting like petulant little children. Get yourselves together in a small room, light up the stogies, and find a way. The country, the political process, and the Constitution need you all to take the high road right now. Do it!

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