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J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor
Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who
writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident
of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]
and Consent, not Delay and Obstruct
The Senate grinds to a halt...
[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 6/10/05
wisely established three separate but equal branches of government,
providing a system of checks
that was intended to prevent abuses of power by any branch. It
isn’t perfect, but it works well most of the time. However,
to watch the Senate in action, or rather inaction, in recent
years, one might wonder how it works at all.
In addition to crafting and considering legislation,
the Senate ratifies treaties and considers presidential nominees
appointive positions in government. In recent times, the Senate
seems to have devoted an inordinate amount of time to the latter
task to the great detriment of its legislative duties. The 109th
Congress, controlled by the president’s own party, has
little in the way of legislative achievement to brag about thus
far and the Senate’s most visible accomplishments to date
have been to delay and obstruct nominations for key diplomatic
positions and judgeships. At this writing, John Bolton has yet
to be confirmed as ambassador to the U.N. I, personally, would
prefer to see the U.N. evicted from its posh New York headquarters
and deported, but given the unlikelihood of that outcome, I’d
settle for Bolton as the tough representative we need in that
pathetically ineffective and corrupt organization.
This preoccupation with the confirmation process
leads me to wonder if the Senate’s priorities are consistent with those
of the voters who presumably elected them to actually get something
done. Is the time spent debating and filibustering presidential
nominees well spent considering other pressing priorities or
is it mostly a craven exercise in partisan politics, power and
control? No one is suggesting a rubber stamp but shouldn’t
a president reelected by a majority of the vote be permitted
wide latitude in selecting key people to serve in government?
Are the citizens served by disgraceful partisan battles that
attack the personal views and philosophies of obviously qualified
candidates and deny them up or down votes because they don’t
meet some political litmus test imposed by powerful Senators
of the minority party?
Those who argue that this is an historic function
of the Senate need to be reminded that confirmation battles
rare prior to the failure to confirm Judge Robert Bork because
his perceived conservative values were judged by some to lie
too far to the right of the mainstream. But who defines the mainstream,
the minority party leaders or the voters who elected the president
and trust him to pick the best and the brightest? The “Borking” of
qualified candidates has since accelerated and consumes more
of the Senators’ time only now it is delaying or denying
highly qualified minority candidates such as Manuel Estrada,
Alberto Gonzales and Janice Brown, to mention only a few, who
have the temerity to be conservatives in defiance of the stereotypical
profile that their opponents seem to feel is appropriate for
members of their race or ethnicity.
To liberal Democrats like Edward Kennedy and Barbara Boxer,
it is, apparently, an outrage for a Black or Hispanic person
to defy tradition by being a conservative. Politicians like them
have spent their careers championing the cause of poor Blacks
and Hispanics, formerly a reliable part of their core constituencies,
and, dammit, they are just supposed to stay loyal Democrats.
How dare they think for themselves?
But times are changing, and, thanks in part
to the very affirmative action programs that the Democrats
supported, more and more Blacks,
Hispanics and other minorities rose to leadership positions.
All they really needed was a chance and a level playing field.
To the consternation of the liberal politicians who often patronized
them and took their grateful votes for granted, some actually
became (gasp!) conservatives. “How inappropriate,” fumed
the liberal leadership. “These ingrates are biting the
hand that fed them. They aren’t supporting the very programs
that got them where they are. They owe their success to the Democrats.”
Wrong. Most of them earned their success the old fashioned
way: by hard work and study. Must they remain forever indebted
to the liberal Democrats? Today, it is the Republicans that are
providing women, African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities
with unparalleled opportunities in government. Now, however,
it is Democratic Senators who are blocking their paths, not on
the basis of qualifications but on philosophical differences
and political grounds. Some eminently qualified nominees, like
Judge Estrada, grew tired of the delay and asked to withdraw
from the tedious and demeaning process. This is a huge loss to
the country and a slap in the face to minorities.
Qualified candidates deserve an up or down vote.
There is nothing democratic, honorable or even traditional
about delaying tactics
and filibusters. Doesn’t the Senate have anything better
to do? If not, I have some suggestions. Social Security, Medicare,
Medicaid, immigration and tax reform come to mind. tOR
2005 J. F. Kelly, Jr.