Joe’s Filibuster Shift Shows Senate’s Polarization

By E.J. Kessler

Published April 08, 2005, issue of April 08, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

For one measure of the toxic, partisan atmosphere in the Republican-controlled Senate, consider the predicament of Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman.

In 1995, the arch-centrist joined a fellow Democrat, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, in proposing a rule change that would have kept the 60 votes presently required for “cloture” of a Senate filibuster, but decreased it by three votes with each of the next three cloture attempts until it got down to a simple majority of 51. The proposal foundered when the Republican majority unanimously opposed it, along with much of the Democratic leadership.

More recently, Lieberman has found himself on the other side of the filibuster debate. In 2003, in response to efforts by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to push the “nuclear option” to end judicial filibuster, Lieberman told the Senate’s Committee on Rules & Administration that the GOP proposal was not like his and “amounts to a demand for unilateral disarmament.”

“It is an effort to force the current minority party to swallow a rules change that allows this president and his party to carve an exception from the Senate rules for their out-of-the-mainstream judicial nominees, while keeping the parts of the cloture rule that they want to continue taking advantage of,” Lieberman said. He added, “In contrast to the serious reform effort we made, this proposal amounts to one party’s effort to turn a Senate rule into a partisan tool — to cherry-pick its favored issue in the name of democracy, while leaving themselves free to filibuster away on legislative proposals they don’t like.”

Lieberman voted to sustain all the Democratic judicial filibusters in the last Congress and would do so again for the seven Bush judicial picks who were filibustered but whom the president re-nominated, according to a Lieberman spokeswoman, Casey Aden-Wansbury. He will consider new nominations on a “case-by-case” basis.

“He basically believes that, in a very polarized Congress, the 60-vote majority is the best way to encourage bipartisan government and moderation in government,” Aden-Wansbury said. “Earlier, he believed that the filibuster allowed the minority to stop government work, but with the increasing polarization, it’s a way to get government to work.”

In earlier years, Republicans might have tried to reach across the aisle to a centrist such as Lieberman on judicial filibusters. Now, not a chance.

“There’s an iron phalanx on filibuster,” said columnist Joshua Micah Marshall, who watches Lieberman closely on the Social Security issue. “I’d be stunned if he caved.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.