Sunday, October 21, 2007

Republican Nukes: From Filibuster to Bunkerbuster and Back

Today's Republican Party sure do love their nuclear war. They love to talk about blowing things up with "nucular" weapons. They do it all the time. There's no sense in denying it. These days they're dusting off the "bunker buster" nukes for a little pajama party in Iran, but it wasn't Iranians they were trying to use the nuclear option on a few short months ago. It was us, or at least our proxies, our elected representatives in Congress.

Despite being crippled by the Forgetting Everything Disorder, Americans should be able to recall that until 2006, the GOP controlled the White House, both houses of Congress, the Judiciary, the Majority of state governments, and the Major News Media.

It's hard to remember all that now, since the Democrats blew into town, firebrands waving, drove the privateers and lobbyists out of Washington, ended the war, beat back the forces of corporate greed, and restored a decent standard of living to the middle class and poor.

Anyway, back when the Republicans had grabbed and not yet squandered the closest thing to unchecked power in America they were likely see for fifty years, the only thing standing in their way, the only barrier to grabbing that brass ring in their hot, moist, delicate fists, seemed to be the opposition party's power of the filibuster.

For those of you who have a hard time grasping the purpose of the filibuster, picture this: if all but one of the senators in Congress were snatched by body snatchers and turned into pod-people, and they wanted to pass laws establishing death camps for any remaining humans, the one last heroic human senator could stall a vote on the measure for as long as he could manage to speak and hold the floor. Procedurally, there can't be a vote until debate has ended. This is a filibuster. The only way to shut him up and force a vote on the measure would be a cloture vote, wherein only a super-majority of 60 votes can halt debate. Of course, in my sci-fi scenario, cloture would be no problem, and the vote would be 99-1 and the human race would become extinct. But you get the idea.

To Cheney , these Democrats were drunk on power, stalling the inevitable victory of conservatism and the GOP (the Right excels at claiming to be under attack despite owning 90% of the pieces on the board, and the board itself). Something had to be done, and lo and behold, David Addington and a few other really fun guys had an idea. They'd been thinking about this for a decade or two.

They figured a way to outlaw the filibuster procedurally, and "blow it up," perhaps for good. They called it the "Nuclear Option." One big bang and the strong can finally eat the weak in the U.S. Congress, once and for all, forever.

But back to today. Democrats now hold majorities in both houses. They set the agenda for all congressional committees, and control the flow of legislation onto the floor for debate.

Suddenly, the Republicans, who have never shied away from speaking in moral absolutes and claim to despise "flip-floppers," don't seem to mind the filibuster so much after all.

Grab this: the current Republican minority now holds the record for the highest number of filibusters in any Congress ever.

Now THAT was a fast turn-around.

It's a good thing they're our moral superiors. Otherwise their behavior could easily be misconstrued as flip-flopping, and everyone knows, only a member of the Democrat Party does that.

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