Vice President Biden v Senator Biden on Filibuster
The left is organizing a public relations campaign to rid the Senate of the filibuster rule and they intend on using a strong arm tactic to exterminate dissent and debate. With a simple majority vote, many of the same Democrats who were apoplectic about Republican plans to rid the Senate of the filibuster for judicial nominees in 2005, are readying a parliamentary maneuver that they denounced during the Bush presidency. Consistency is not a strong point of politicians and Vice President Joe Biden has completed a flip flop on the filibuster than will make your head spin.
Vice President Joe Biden, who is President of the U.S. Senate pursuant to the Constitution, has reversed his course on the filibuster according to Ben Smith at Politico. Biden was quoted recently as saying:
“As long as I have served … I’ve never seen, as my uncle once said, the Constitution stood on its head as they’ve done. This is the first time every single solitary decisions has required 60 senators,” he said at a Florida fundraiser, according to the pool report. “No democracy has survived needing a super majority.”
This is the same Vice President Biden who, as Senator, participated in numerous filibusters. See this speech from May 23, 2005 during the debate over Priscilla Owen to be on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals:
Mr. President, my friends and colleagues, I have not been here as long as Senator Byrd, and no one fully understands the Senate as well as Senator Byrd, but I have been here for over three decades. This is the single most significant vote any one of us will cast in my 32 years in the Senate. I suspect the Senator would agree with that.
Now, Biden is referring to the Republican leadership’s threat to implement the so called “Nuclear Option” to pass this nomination with a simple majority. Republicans toyed with the idea that they could change the Senate rules with a simple majority to abolish the filibuster for President Bush’s nominees to the federal bench.
We should make no mistake. This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is a fundamental power grab by the majority party, propelled by its extreme right and designed to change the reading of the Constitution, particularly as it relates to individual rights and property rights. It is nothing more or nothing less. Let me take a few moments to explain that. Folks who want to see this change want to eliminate one of the procedural mechanisms designed for the express purpose of guaranteeing individual rights, and they also have a consequence, and would undermine the protections of a minority point of view in the heat of majority excess. We have been through these periods before in American history but never, to the best of my knowledge, has any party been so bold as to fundamentally attempt to change the structure of this body.
Now the shoe is on the other foot, and Vice President Biden is setting the table for an attack on the filibuster for nominees and legislation. They want ObamaCare so bad, the left seems ready to use this same Nuclear Option they denounced in 2005 to rid the Senate of debate and dissent. More from Senator Biden:
It is important we state frankly, if for no other reason than the historical record, why this is being done. The extreme right of the Republican Party is attempting to hijack the Federal courts by emasculating the courts’ independence and changing one of the unique foundations of the Senate; that is, the requirement for the protection of the right of individual Senators to guarantee the independence of the Federal Judiciary. This is being done in the name of fairness? Quite frankly, it is the ultimate act of unfairness to alter the unique responsibility of the Senate and to do so by breaking the very rules of the Senate.
Senator Biden expressed concern that ridding the Senate of the filibuster would emasculate the body and turn it into a pure majoritiarian body:
The nuclear option is a twofer. It excises, friends, our courts and, at the same time, emasculates the Senate. Put simply, the nuclear option would transform the Senate from the so-called cooling saucer our Founding Fathers talked about to cool the passions of the day to a pure majoritarian body like a Parliament. We have heard a lot in recent weeks about the rights of the majority and obstructionism. But the Senate is not meant to be a place of pure majoritarianism.
Biden then argued that the filibuster serves the important role of “compromise and moderation” in the Senate.
Republicans control the Senate, and they have decided they are going to change the rule. At its core, the filibuster is not about stopping a nominee or a bill, it is about compromise and moderation. That is why the Founders put unlimited debate in. When you have to–and I have never conducted a filibuster–but if I did, the purpose would be that you have to deal with me as one Senator. It does not mean I get my way. It means you may have to compromise. You may have to see my side of the argument. That is what it is about, engendering compromise and moderation.
Biden stated that our “Founders put unlimited debate in” the Constitution. If it is in the Constitution pursuant to Biden went on to state that the views of Independents and moderates in the Senate will get tossed to the side if you get rid of the filibuster rule.
Ladies and gentlemen, the nuclear option extinguishes the power of Independents and moderates in this Senate. That is it. They are done. Moderates are important only if you need to get 60 votes to satisfy cloture. They are much less important if you need only 50 votes. I understand the frustration of our Republican colleagues. I have been here 32 years, most of the time in the majority. Whenever you are in the majority, it is frustrating to see the other side block a bill or a nominee you support. I have walked in your shoes, and I get it.
Senator Biden feared that ridding the Senate of the filibuster would lead to the Congress becoming a European style parliamentary governance:
The exercise of the nuclear option also has another fundamental impact on the government–it will transform the Congress from a bifurcated legislature where political parties were never intended to rule supreme into a quasi-parliamentary system where a single party will dominate.
The history of the filibuster and the “facts” would erode the Senate’s power pursuant to Article 1 of the Constitution:
The facts are these. There was no ability to limit debate until 1917. And then the explicit decision was made to limit debate on legislation if 2/3 of the Senators present and accounted for supported cloture. Even then, the Senate rejected a similar limitation on executive nominations, including nominees to the federal bench. It wasn’t until 1949 that the new cloture rule also applied to nominations. The question at present is, will the Senate actually aid and abet in the erosion of its Article I power by conceding to another branch greater influence over who ends up on our courts? As Senator Stennis once said to me in the face of a particularly audacious claim by President Nixon: “Are we the President’s men or the Senate’s?”
In the battle between Senator Joe Biden and Vice President Joe Biden on the filibuster, conservatives should side with Senator Biden. For more resources on the necessity of the filibuster, you can refer to “The Filibuster is Essential for Democracy,” “The Filibuster is Constitutional and Essential for Freedom,” and “Leftists Continue War Against Filibuster.”