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Which Battles to Fight?

by TChris

As a matter of priority, the death of the Chief Justice is dwarfed by the urgent need to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Come Tuesday, senators should table all other action in favor of managing a crisis that seems beyond the competence of Homeland Security. The confirmation hearing of John Roberts should await a less pressing time, and neither the president nor the Senate should consider Rehnquist’s replacement until the public health crisis confronting the gulf coast has been resolved.

Some will argue that Rehnquist’s death requires the immediate confirmation of Judge Roberts. Not so. Only six justices are needed for a quorum. The seven sitting justices are capable of carrying on the Court’s business. They may decide not to decide cases until an eighth or ninth vote is available, a procedure the Court’s rules would permit. In some cases, the seven may have the five votes that would arguably render an eighth or ninth vote superfluous. While the Court benefits from the collegial debate that a full Court can provide, the sitting justices are capable of deciding which cases would benefit and which would likely be unaffected by an additional vote or two.

Little reason has been demonstrated for any Democrat to vote for Roberts, but it is premature for Democrats to decide whether to filibuster Roberts or the eventual nominee for Rehnquist’s seat, or both. Like the confirmation hearings, Supreme Court strategizing should be set aside until the tragedy of New Orleans is under control. It is scandalous that some conservatives still want the federal legislature to focus on the pet projects of the wealthy when so many in the gulf coast have been left without food, shelter, and jobs. Repealing what’s left of the estate tax won’t benefit those who saw their meager “estates” destroyed in the flood. Cutting taxes for the wealthy (again) and trimming social security benefits won’t rebuild homes that were blown apart by the wind.

The Republican agenda is out of step with the immediate need for humanitarian action that should drive the Senate in the coming days and weeks. Senate Democrats (and their counterparts in the House) should demand that the victims of Katrina receive their full attention. A congressional investigation of FEMA’s sorrowful performance in the days preceding and following the devastation of New Orleans must given high priority, to assure that the nation is adequately protected from future disasters, whether spawned by terrorists or nature.

The nomination and confirmation of new justices should be put on hold until the nation can give the Supreme Court the attention it deserves. Once the people in the gulf coast have been given safety and hope, and the rest of the country has been adequately protected from future disasters, the legislature can resume its ordinary course of business. Democrats in the House and Senate should insist on nothing less.

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  • Re: Which Battles to Fight? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:13 PM EST
    Oh yes, that's what we need - a committee of 100 trying to manage a disaster relief process. That would work about as well as the Civil War era's "Committee on the Conduct of the War" - something Wilson worked very hard to ensure would not get created during WWI. The Senate has a simple job in this effort - work with the House to pass bills as necessary (relief, red tape cutting, whatever). They don't need to "manage" the process, and attempting to do so would make matters far worse than they are. The Senate should otherwise return to their constitutionally mandated duties - which includes vetting judges.

    Re: Which Battles to Fight? (none / 0) (#2)
    by aw on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:13 PM EST
    The Senate has a simple job in this effort - work with the House to pass bills as necessary
    Don't forget to kill the estate tax, dead, dead, dead.

    Re: Which Battles to Fight? (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:13 PM EST
    JR-back to biz.... your wetdream. Slip em in when America is distracted. Chimpy loves you.
    Mandate: An authorization to carry out a specific public policy, given by the electorate to ther representatives..
    Does not seem like The Mandate wants its Senators focusing on reactionary SC nominees at this point in time. Haven't you been paying attention.

    Re: Which Battles to Fight? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:13 PM EST
    Squeaky - try this at work. Explain that what's going on at the Gulf Coast is so important that you can't focus on work - and that a moratorium on work should go into effect until the crisis is over. Good luck with that.

    Re: Which Battles to Fight? (none / 0) (#5)
    by chemoelectric on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:13 PM EST
    I thought O'Connor was staying on until there was a replacement.

    Re: Which Battles to Fight? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:13 PM EST
    Expect to hear something like the following this week: "One third of the federal gov't is crippled by not having a Chief Justice, we can not let this constitutional crisis linger. The debate of NOLA can wait, until after the bodies are buried & until after this grave consitutional crisis has passed." The Admin has an amazing opportunity this week to spin to a new issue, but only if we let them. -- Oh yeah, anyone else notice the estate tax ads playing all over the cable news networks this weekends? Is it just me or is it grotesque?

    Re: Which Battles to Fight? (none / 0) (#7)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:13 PM EST
    It is scandalous that some conservatives still want the federal legislature to focus on the pet projects of the wealthy when so many in the gulf coast have been left without food, shelter, and jobs.
    i beg to differ. it is business as usual. these people had no use for the poor and middle class before katrina, why on earth would you think they feel any compulsion to stop their agenda now? in fact, this is prime time, while everyone's attention is focussed elsewhere. silly boy! these people may be greedy and vapid, but they certainly aren't stupid.

    Re: Which Battles to Fight? (none / 0) (#8)
    by aw on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:14 PM EST
    Squeaky - try this at work. Explain that what's going on at the Gulf Coast is so important that you can't focus on work - and that a moratorium on work should go into effect until the crisis is over.
    Well, we are the bosses, are we not? Govt of, by, for the people and all that. I say work on the Katrina catastrophe. Get busy. Mandatory overtime. There will be a performance review.

    Re: Which Battles to Fight? (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:15 PM EST
    Actually, there are currently 8 sitting justices and just 1 vacancy. O'Conner has offered to resign, but is still on the bench pending a confirmation of a successor. The Court's ability to conduct its business in not in danger.

    Re: Which Battles to Fight? (none / 0) (#10)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:15 PM EST
    JR-Thank you for the compliment, I may seem important to you but I am not about to affect US constitutional law for the next thirty years. If I were in a similar position at my "work" I would focus on things less drastic and more pertinant to the demands of those I represent. Who suggested a vacation? Poor analogy at best. Moron at worst.