I’ve written many times about how Republicans and Democrats often exchange scripts when it comes to the filibuster. When one party is in power in the Senate, the filibuster is a terribly evil idea that must be done away with; when that same party is in the minority, the filibuster is an absolutely essential tool to avoid majoritarian tyranny. Lather, rinse, repeat. But I’m pretty disappointed to see the liberal group Common Cause behaving the same way. They actually filed a lawsuit to get the filibuster declared unconstitutional, which was just (predictably) dismissed by a federal judge.
The judge, Emmet Sullivan of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said “reaching the merits of this case would require an invasion” into internal Senate processes and “would thus express a lack of respect for the Senate as a coordinate branch of government.”
“The court acknowledges at the outset that the Filibuster Rule is an important and controversial issue,” Sullivan wrote. In recent years, the judge continued, “even the mere threat of a filibuster is powerful enough to completely forestall legislative action. However, this court finds itself powerless to address this issue for two independent reasons.”
Sullivan said the plaintiffs, the government accountability group Common Cause, four members of the House of Representatives and three individuals, do not have legal standing to challenge the filibuster rule. The judge rejected the argument that vote nullification—the alleged injury among the House members—reaches the threshold for legal standing.
“Second, and no less important, the court is firmly convinced that to intrude into this area would offend the separation of powers on which the Constitution rests,” Sullivan said. “Nowhere does the Constitution contain express requirements regarding the proper length of, or method for, the Senate to debate proposed legislation.”
The judge is absolutely right on this, of course, and this lawsuit was ridiculous from the start. There was no way in hell the federal courts were going to intervene in the internal rules of the Senate (and that is an entirely separate issue from whether the filibuster should exist or not, and in what form). More importantly, Common Cause is being little more than a tool of the Democratic party here, flipping on the issue whenever the party does. Here is what they said in 2005 in a press release (which has now been removed from the Common Cause website), when it was the Republicans who wanted to get rid of the filibuster, at least for judicial nominees, and the Democrats were solidly in favor of it:
Common Cause strongly opposes any effort by Senate leaders to outlaw filibusters of judicial nominees to silence a vigorous debate about the qualifications of these nominees, short-circuiting the Senate’s historic role in the nomination approval process.
“The filibuster shouldn’t be jettisoned simply because it’s inconvenient to the majority party’s goals,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. “That’s abuse of power.”
And now the entire filibuster itself is allegedly unconstitutional according to that same group. Come on, folks, let’s at least try to pretend to have some intellectual integrity.
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