(by Susan Jones, April 25, 2005, CNSNews.com) – A “Justice Sunday” broadcast aimed at “stopping the filibuster against people of faith” reached an estimated 61 million households in 44 states on Sunday, organizers said.
The live broadcast, hosted by FRC Action, the legislative arm of the Family Research Council, explained to conservatives how “actions in Washington have a direct impact on their lives in the heartland,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
The broadcast, which included a videotaped message from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, addressed the Democrats’ filibuster of President Bush’s most conservative judicial nominees.
“We think everyone has a right to express a point of view, but these men and women waiting on confirmation, several of them for years, have the right to be told if they are going to be hired or not,” Perkins said in a message on the FRC website.
“More importantly, the American people have the right to know what their elected officials are doing in Washington,” Perkins added.
“This simulcast would not be necessary if the Senate’s most liberal members would distance themselves from the interest groups that hold them in thrall. It’s time to bring some transparency to the process and it is time to give these nominees an up-or-down vote,” Perkins added.
“This is not about faith, but a debate and fairness for people of faith, any faith.”
For the first time in history, Democrats are filibustering some of President Bush’s judicial nominees. It takes 60 votes to cut off a filibuster, but only 51 to confirm a judicial nominee.
Republicans say Democrats are, in effect, changing the rules – requiring a 60-vote test for judicial nominees rather than a simple majority.
‘Don’t leave them hanging’
In his videotaped remarks, Sen. Frist noted that “emotions are running high on both sides,” and he mentioned the nation’s “desperate need for more civility in political life.”
“All of us who are active in politics — whether Republican or Democrat — need to remember the lesson of Ronald Reagan — that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Now let me tell you about a disagreement that is going on in our nation’s capital,” Frist said.
“Never in 214 years, never in the history of the United States Senate had a judicial nominee with majority support been denied an up-or-down vote — until two years ago.
“In the last Congress, however, a minority of senators denied ten of the president’s judicial nominees an up-or-down vote. They wouldn’t allow a vote, because they knew the nominations would be approved.”
Frist noted that the same thing is happening in the new Congress; and he also noted that Senate Democrats are threatening to shut down the Senate if Republicans change Senate rules to get around the filibusters:
“Americans elect their senators to vote on the people’s business. That is a senator’s job — to vote. If these senators are not prepared to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities, then why are they here in the first place?” Frist asked.
He said there are now 46 vacancies on the federal bench: “Either confirm the nominees or reject them,” Frist said, “but don’t leave them hanging. Don’t leave our courts hanging. Don’t leave our country hanging.”
Frist said even a vote to reject the judicial nominees is a “fair” vote, and he singled out Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen as one of the nominees who deserves confirmation.
Frist explained what he plans to do to make sure that Owen and the other nominees get the vote that they are due:
“I’ve been trying to work out a compromise that would do just that,” Frist said. “It’s not easy. My Democratic counterpart, Senator [Harry] Reid, calls me a radical Republican.
“I don’t think it’s radical to ask senators to vote. I don’t think it’s radical to expect senators to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities. I don’t think it’s radical to restore precedents that worked so well for 214 years.
“Now if Senator Reid continues to obstruct the process, we will consider what opponents call the ‘nuclear option.’ Only in the United States Senate could it be considered a devastating option to allow a vote. Most places call that democracy,” Frist said.
Frist also made it clear that the proposed Senate rule change will affect only filibusters of judicial nominees, not filibusters of legislation. And he addressed Republican concerns about having the shoe on the other foot someday:
“Now some Republicans – even some conservatives – don’t think we should press the issue on requiring votes on judicial nominees. They’re concerned that in the future Republicans won’t be able to use this same device to obstruct Democratic nominees,” Frist said.
“Well, that may be true. But if what Democrats are doing is wrong today, it won’t be right for Republicans to do the same thing tomorrow.”
Frist urged his audience to “call your senators and remind them — whether they’re Republican or Democrat — that they work for you. Tell them to do what’s right. Tell them to do what’s fair. Tell them to do their job – give judicial nominees the up-or-down votes they deserve.”
A vote on changing Senate rules — to get around the Democrat filibusters — is expected this week.
Reprinted here with permission from CNSNews. Visit the website at www.CNSNews.com.
1. What was the goal of the “Justice Sunday” broadcast?
2. Define filibuster. How is the filibuster regularly used in the Senate? (For a transcript on filibustering and judicial nominations, click here.)
3. What is unique about the Democrats’ judicial filibustering? How are Democrats changing the rules for judicial nominees?
4. What is an up-or-down vote? Why did the organizers of “Justice Sunday” say we should ask our Senators for an up-or-down vote?
5. How does Senator Frist defend himself against Senator Reid’s accusation that he is a “radical republican”?
6. What four things does Senator Frist urge voters to tell their Senators?
7. Should the Senate minority thwart majority rule? Explain your answer.