The Most Important Vote

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  4/18/2005
 

Sometime in the next few weeks, the United States Senate will hold the most important vote of this generation. It is that important for the same reason that last year’s election was the most important one of our generation. As an election season billboard said, "Think of the Supreme Court!"

The vote I’m talking about will affect how easily the Senate can put the right men and women onto the Federal Courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court. It is a vote regarding Senate rules, and, simply put, will determine whether nominees who already have the support of a majority of the Senators can be voted on.

You may ask why this is even an issue, especially if the judicial nominees in question already have the support of the majority of the Senate.

Good question.

The United States Constitution says that the President nominates people to serve on our Federal Courts, and that the US Senate is to give "advice and consent." In other words, the President presents these nominees to the Senate, and then the Senators vote "yes" or "no" as to whether that nominee will serve as a Federal Judge. The same process is used when there is a vacancy on the US Supreme Court, and such a vacancy may occur within the next couple of months.

The President has been nominating people for the Federal courts, and there have been votes and confirmations. But there is an entire group of well-qualified nominees who, in the judgment of Senate Democrats, are too "far right" for their liking.

Of course, these Democrats have the right to think what they want about the nominees, and they have the right to vote against them. They also have the right to try to persuade other Senators to vote against them.

But they are not content with that. They now want to claim the right to prevent a vote one way or the other. And they do that by prolonging debate on the nominee indefinitely, so that the debate never closes and the vote is never taken. This process is called a "filibuster."

Now filibusters do have their place. There may be legislation, for example, that the minority party objects to. A filibuster can be used to indefinitely prolong debate on the legislation. This gives the minority some leverage, so that they do not lose their power altogether.

But while filibusters have an appropriate place in legislative debates, we are witnessing, for the first time in history, the use of the filibuster technique to block the "advice and consent" process of the Senate for judicial nominees, when the nominees already have the support of the majority of Senators. To the extent that the Senator is deprived of a vote, the people who elected that Senator are deprived of their voice at the highest levels of government. If this can be done now with Federal judges, it will certainly be done with a Supreme Court Justice.

Federal judges have removed "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, allowed child pornography as protected free speech, redefined marriage to include same-sex relationships, struck down bans on partial-birth abortion, and contradicted the will of the people in many other ways. Many Senators want this to stop, and they can stop it by confirming judges who know the difference between applying the law and imposing their political preferences on the people.

The vote that is coming up in the next few weeks is designed to end the abuse of the filibuster and provide a fair up-or-down vote on judges. This is a unique opportunity to tell your Senators you care about the unpredecented and unfair filibustering of President Bush's nominees. Senators need to know that you care about this issue and are watching how they vote.

ACTION: You can reach your senators through the Capitol Switchboard today, or any day, at (202) 224-3121. Just dial this number and ask to be transferred to your Senator's office. You'll have to call twice in order to place a call to each of your two Senators. (You can get direct contact information for both of your home state Senators at the website, judicialnetwork.org, as well.) If you call the main switchboard, simply ask for the Senator you are calling, and when that Senator's office answers, explain that you support a return to the constitutional tradition of a fair up-or-down vote on judicial nominees and an end to the filibuster of judges. We recommend that you also call the local state office of your Senator with the same message. It is even more powerful if you pay a visit to the local state office to register your concern.

SUGGESTED MESSAGE: "Hello, I'm a voter from (NAME OF YOUR STATE) and I support the constitutional option to end the filibuster of judges. Please tell Senator (NAME OF YOUR SENATOR) that every one of President Bush's judicial nominees should be brought to the Senate floor for a fair up-or-down vote. Thank You."