Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) appeared on “Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith,” an evangelical broadcast to fundamentalist churches across the nation on Sunday to garner support for a rule change in the Senate that would eliminate the use of filibusters against judicial nominees. The rule change, known as the “nuclear option,” would prevent filibusters on judicial nominees – including Supreme Court nominees – by requiring only a simple 51-vote majority to close debate and move to a vote on the judges. Present rules require 60 votes to close the debate.
“If Republicans are successful at abusing their power and changing the rules in the middle of the game, America will have no power to stop a handful of radical right-wing Republicans from steamrolling our system of checks and balances and stacking the courts,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has been leading the fight against the so-called nuclear option. “[Republicans] want to clear the path for President Bush to appoint Justices [to the Supreme Court] who will not protect the right to privacy or the separation of church and state.”
“President Bush, together with the radical right in the Senate and some religious groups, are trying to not only stack the federal courts with right-wing, anti-women’s rights appointments, but also to silence a minority in the Senate, which actually represents, in state populations, more people than the majority in the Senate,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “For women this could be catastrophic, because we stand to lose the gains of the last 40 years, especially our right to reproductive choice and our hard-won protections against sex discrimination.” The Feminist Majority is part of a broad coalition of women’s rights, civil rights, lesbian and gay rights, environmental, labor, and disability rights groups that has been urging Senate Democrats to filibuster right-wing, anti-women’s rights nominees to the federal courts.