Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Marcia D. Greenberger and Judith C. Appelbaum: Tearing Up the Rule Book

Tearing Up The Rule Book
by Marcia D. Greenberger and Judith C. Appelbaum
Tom Paine

Marcia D. Greenberger is co-president of the National Women’s Law Center and Judith C. Appelbaum is vice president and legal director of the Center. The Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women’s legal rights.

Imagine a baseball game in which the manager of the team at bat turns to the umpire, a close associate, and asks for a rule change in the bottom of the last inning to guarantee a win for his side—say, a reduction in the number of balls it takes to get a walk, from four to two. Ignoring the league’s established procedures for modifying the rules of the game, the umpire announces the new rule, the pitcher and his team lack the power to overturn it, batter after batter draws a walk, and the game is no longer a contest at all.

Any baseball team that behaved like this would be immediately disqualified for ignoring the rules that make the game fair.

Now, imagine if members of the U.S. Senate changed the rules when they didn’t like them. Soon you may not have to imagine because as early as this week, the U.S. Senate may be tearing up its own rule book by launching the “nuclear option” to clear the way for the president’s most controversial judicial nominees.

The “nuclear option” to eliminate filibusters of judicial nominations has been widely criticized on the ground that it would seriously undermine our system of checks and balances and enable the Bush administration to put just about anyone it pleases on the Supreme Court and other federal courts across the country. But this maneuver in the U.S. Senate, expected to occur as soon as this week, is troubling not only because of what it would do, but also because of how it would be accomplished.

Rest of the Essay

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