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June 22, 2005

An intriguing way to fix the confirmation filibuster problem

From Best of the Web's James Taranto:
The Bolton problem will have to be resolved politically, but it seems clear from this and the dispute over judicial nominees that there is a problem in the confirmation process, and perhaps it's time to start thinking about a long-term constitutional solution. Why not a constitutional amendment that would go something like this:
Section 1. The President's power to fill vacancies during a recess of the Senate shall apply only in the case of a recess lasting ninety days or longer.

Section 2. The Senate shall vote on all presidential appointments within ninety days of the first day the Senate is in session after the President submits an appointment. The Senate's failure to fulfill this obligation shall be construed as consenting to the appointment.

Section 3. The provisions of this Article shall take effect at the beginning of the next Presidential term after the ratification of this Article.
The effect of this would be to render ineffective all of the obstructionist tactics--blue slips, delayed committee hearings, filibusters--that Republicans used to block nominees during the Clinton years and Democrats are using now, while having no effect on the Senate's constitutional prerogative to set its own rules vis-à-vis legislation. Section 3, by deferring the change until the next presidential term, would avoid any consideration of short-term partisan advantage.
This seems like an excellent solution. But, as Taranto later points out, such a constitutional amendment might have trouble getting past the Senate, given that it would shift some power to the president.

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