Change is coming

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on March 2, 2009

The New York Times is most famous around here for two things: columnist/hack Paul Krugman and their definition of "filibuster."

Throughout the Bush years -- and frankly any time you have A) a Republican President and b) between 51 and 59 GOP Senators -- the Times was very pro-filibuster and urged the GOP to accommodate rather than get rid of the filibuster for judicial nominees.

[R]epublicans control the White House, both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. But the greater their power, the more they have focused on one of its few limits: the Senate filibuster. They are so concerned that Democrats will use the filibuster to block a few far-right judicial nominees that they are talking about ending one of the best-known checks and balances in government. Rather than rewrite the rules of government for a power grab, Republicans should look for ways to work with Democrats, who still represent nearly half the country.

The Times also encouraged Democrats to use the filibuster -- even if it turned Americans against them -- to defeat Justice Samuel Alito.

But now change has come, and the Times has begun moving to change their position on the filibuster, as evidenced by two editorial pieces published today.

The first piece, by political science professor David E. RePass, encourages Reid to force actual "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" filibusters to occur, rather than the mere threat of a filibuster requiring the requisite 60 vote threshold be reached. On principle, I agree, because I think it would boost C-SPAN's ratings. But you weren't hearing this sort of tough talk when Reid was in the minority and would've had to get the likes of Sens. Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy to spend hour after hour speaking. Heck, Democrats would've decried it as elder abuse.

The second article, by historian Jean Edward Smith, goes further.

Nevertheless, the use of the filibuster as an everyday tool of legislation stands the idea of democratic government on its head. Instead of majority rule in the Senate, the tyranny of the minority prevails. If the ability of the British House of Lords to prevent passage of legislation has been curtailed, surely it is time to permit a simple majority of the United States Senate to close off debate.

In the great legislative reapportionment cases of the 1960s, the Supreme Court defined democratic government as majority rule based on the principle of one person, one vote. It is time to apply that standard to the Senate.

I'm (not so) sure that Smith held this view while Democrats were using the filibuster against President Bush. I'm also sure that the New York Times would've been proud to feature this Op-Ed on its Web site during the last administration.

We don't have an editorial yet -- because we don't have a filibuster yet. But rest assured, the partisan -- not principled -- Times editorial page is just one successful GOP filibuster away from "changing" their minds on the filibuster once again.

0 comments on “Change is coming”

  1. They also change the definition of "mandate" depending on the party in the White House. They went out of their way to explain why Reagan didn't get a mandate in 1984 though he blew Mondale out of the water from coast to coast. Clinton, however, had a mandate, somehow, though he didn't get, in either election, a majority of the popular vote.

    Personally, I think the filibuster is unconstitutional: the constitution stipulates the few cases in which more than a majority vote is required (such as overriding a veto or proposing a constitutional amendment); therefore, it is not required in any other cases.


Worth remembering that 427,205 Georgia Republicans refused to vote in two 2021 runoff elections because their then president and state GOP chairman told them the runoffs were going to be stolen. Made this legislation possible.

Load More


March 2009



linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram