April 28, 2005
-- by Dave Johnson
Al Gore gave a speech Wednesday on the Republican effort to set aside the rules of the Senate and not allow filibusters. Please read it. Exerpts:
The survival of freedom depends upon the rule of law.
The rule of law depends, in turn, upon the respect each generation of Americans has for the integrity with which our laws are written, interpreted and enforced.
That necessary respect depends not only on the representative nature of our legislative branch, but also on the deliberative character of its proceedings. As James Madison envisioned, ours is a "deliberative democracy." Indeed, its deliberative nature is fundamental to the integrity of our social compact. Because the essential alchemy of democracy -- whereby just power is derived from the consent of the governed -- can only occur in a process that is genuinely deliberative.It is a historic speech that high school students will be reading 100 years from now (if the Right doesn't get away with this coup). Go read the rest. And watch your backs.
Moreover, it is the unique role of the Senate, much more than the House, to provide a forum for deliberation, to give adequate and full consideration to the strongly held views of a minority. In this case, the minority is made up of 44 Democratic Senators and 1 Independent.
And it is no accident that our founders gave the Senate the power to pass judgment on the fitness of nominees to the Judicial branch. Because they knew that respect for the law also depends upon the perceived independence and integrity of our judges. And they wanted those qualities to be reviewed by the more reflective body of Congress.
[. . .] I am genuinely dismayed and deeply concerned by the recent actions of some Republican leaders to undermine the rule of law by demanding the Senate be stripped of its right to unlimited debate where the confirmation of judges is concerned, and even to engage in outright threats and intimidation against federal judges with whom they philosophically disagree.
[. . .] Through their words and threats, these Republicans are creating an atmosphere in which judges may well hesitate to exercise their independence for fear of Congressional retribution, or worse.
It is no accident that this assault on the integrity of our constitutional design has been fueled by a small group claiming special knowledge of God's will in American politics. They even claim that those of us who disagree with their point of view are waging war against "people of faith." How dare they?
[. . .] This fight is not about responding to a crisis. It is about the desire of the administration and the Senate leadership to stifle debate in order to get what they want when they want it. What is involved here is a power grab -- pure and simple.
And what makes it so dangerous for our country is their willingness to do serious damage to our American democracy in order to satisfy their lust for total one-party domination of all three branches of government. They seek nothing less than absolute power. Their grand design is an all-powerful executive using a weakened legislature to fashion a compliant judiciary in its own image. They envision a total breakdown of the separation of powers. And in its place they want to establish a system in which power is unified in the service of a narrow ideology serving a narrow set of interests.
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