Senate talkathon was a shameless publicity stunt

Last week U.S. Senate Republicans held a nearly 40-hour filibuster to protest the Democrats’ filibuster of judicial nominees. This was really a slumber party, complete with blankets and cots. No solutions or new ideas arose, and there were no pillow fights. The Republican filibuster was a shameless publicity stunt and a colossal waste of time.

Under the Constitution, the president nominates federal judges, subject to the “advice and consent” of the Senate. The Senate has approved 168 of the 174 judges President George W. Bush nominated. Democrats claim the blocked nominees are individuals who have extreme political views and, furthermore, allow those views to influence their rulings. The advice and consent provision exists specifically to weed out such nominees.

One blocked nominee, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, publicly questioned incorporation, the accepted legal doctrine that important parts of the Bill of Rights apply to the states. Another, Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor Jr., has called Roe v. Wade “an abomination.” Whatever a judge’s personal opinion is, his or her responsibility is to interpret the law. As such, these statements question their qualifications for the job.

Rejection of judicial nominees is not a novel concept. Republicans filibustered Abe Fortas’ Supreme Court chief justice confirmation in the 1960s and blocked 60 Clinton nominees in the 1990s. Given a Republican Senate, party-line votes and no House input, the filibuster is effectively the only obstacle stopping lifetime appointments of extremist judges.

While the Senate talked themselves silly, people continued to be unemployed and soldiers died in Iraq. Conducting a nearly 40-hour publicity stunt to protest a functioning process in an attempt to demonize it is irresponsible and reprehensible.

The framers created the U.S. Senate to be the “greatest deliberative body in the world.” We hope it will return to behaving that way.