The Democratic response to the presidential radio address was delivered Saturday by Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid, who compared Republican talk of ending the filibuster to FDR's infamous court-packing plan.
Reid, a soft-spoken moderate from a Western state that may be a swing state in 2008, is building a reputation as a tough opponent to Bush's Social Security privatization plan.
The transcript of his remarks:
I'm Harry Reid from Nevada, the Democratic Leader in the United States Senate.
This weekend, spring has made it to Washington DC. From the window in my office in the Capitol, I can see down the Mall, past the Washington Monument and to the Lincoln Memorial. It's a long way from my hometown of Searchlight, Nev., and it's quite a view. The famous cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the city is crowded with visitors -- especially young people, here with their families or with their schools.
As the kids line up at the National Archives to see the original copies of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they'll learn about checks and balances and freedom of speech. And when they're done, I wish they would come down the street to the Capitol and teach some of what they've learned to the Congressional leaders of the Republican Party.
You see, in the past weeks, we've seen Republicans in Congress abuse their power in too many ways. We have a Republican leader threatening judges who protect our rights and corrupting our government by running roughshod over the ethics committee to protect himself.
Republicans are trying to increase their power even if it means ignoring rules that go back to America's beginnings. They seem to think that they know better than our Founding Fathers. Somehow, I doubt that's true.
In their latest move, President Bush and the Republican leadership are trying to ram through radical choices for judges who will serve a lifetime on the bench. They are trying to eliminate a 200-year-old American rule that says that every member of the Senate has the right to rise to say their piece and speak on behalf of the people that sent them here.
This isn't about some arcane procedure of the Senate. It is about protecting liberty and our limited government.
This isn't about politics. In the past, two Democratic presidents tried to take control of the judicial branch and Americans of all political stripes rightly spoke up to defeat those efforts.
It isn't even about judges. The fact is that this president has a better record of having his judicial nominees approved than any president in the past 25 years. Only 10 of 214 nominations have been turned down -- and those 10 had views that were totally out-of-touch with the mainstream values Americans share.
When it comes down to it, stripping away these important checks and balances is about the arrogance of those in power who want to rewrite the rules so that they can get their way.
It would mean that the United States Senate becomes merely a rubber stamp for the president.
It would mean that one political party -- be it Republicans today or Democrats tomorrow -- gets to have all the say over our nation's highest courts.
It would remove the checks on the president's power -- meaning that one man, sitting in the White House, could personally hand out lifetime jobs to judges whose rulings on our basic rights can last forever.
That's not how America works.
Here in America, the people rule -- and all the people have a voice.
Here in America, our judges should be independent -- not puppets dancing to the pull of one person in power or one political party's agenda.
We cannot sit by and allow the corruption of America's values in America's Congress. The Republicans who run Washington should start using their power for the good of all Americans, not abusing it for their own benefit.
Our Constitution tells us that the courts should be free from political pressure and that our rights are protected by checks and balances.
Our children know that you can't change the rules just to get your way. I think it's time that Washington Republicans remembered those truths.
This is Sen. Harry Reid. Thank you for listening.
Here's an interesting footnote for fans of the weekly presidential radio address and response, which were inspired by FDR's fireside chats: His 1937 address advocating the court plan can be heard online.
The Senate has the right to "advise and consent" the appointment of federal judges. How they decide to make their consent known is a matter of senate rules - rules which are not a matter of the Consttitution, but rather a matter of a simple majority vote of the Senate.
Most of the loudest opponents of the so called nuclear option - including Senator Byrd - railed against the filibuster of judges during the 90's. The NY Times called it a relic that needed retirement at the time.
This is nothing more than a matter of whose ox is being gored.
It's a 200-year-old rule, as Sen. Reid makes clear in his address.
Though of course Democrats care more about the rule now that they are in the Senate minority, it's worth pointing out that their leaders did not challenge its use by a Republican minority from 1955 to 1980, nor when they were in the majority again from 2001 to 2003.
Undermining the filibuster is another radical move by radical Republicans in Congress, like the Texas mid-decade redistricting.
If tradition lends credence, I can point to plenty of old (centuries old or milleniums old) practices that I'm sure you wouldn't like. Citing precedence is a very, very weak argument.
The fact is, the filibuster is a senate rule - it has no Constitutional grounds. Any senate can choose (or not choose) to allow or disallow it.
The main reason the Democrats didn't eliminate the filibuster during the 90's is that the mere threat to do so made the Republicans back down - they didn't exercise the filibuster over court nominees like the Democrats are doing now.
If you want to claim something as radical, then you can look at the Democrats sticking to the (rare) practice of filibustering judges in the face of a majority threat to eliminate the rule.
As to the Texas redistricting, I think that there's plenty of nastiness to go around in terms of redistricting across the country.
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