George Will’s Perfectly Consistent Filibuster Position

In his Washington Post column today (2/25/10), George Will writes in defense of the filibuster, arguing that Democrats’ talk of using budget reconciliation rules to pass ahealthcare bill demonstrates their contempt for the Constitution.

He has been perfectly consistent on the question of minority rule–it depends on who the minority is.Back when Republicans filibustered a Clinton economic stimulus bill in 1993, hecheered them on in a column headlined “The Framers’ Intent” (Washington Post, 4/25/93). Will defended “the right of a minority to use extended debate to obstruct Senate action” and praised “the generation that wrote and ratified the Constitution” for properly establishing “the Senate’s permissive tradition regarding extended debates.”

When the Democratic minority attempted to block a Bush judicial nominee, he was suddenly, without explanation, against the principle that the minority party should have such powers–in a piece headlined “Coup Against the Constitution” (Washington Post, 2/28/03). As Steve Rendall wrote in Extra! (9-10/03):

Concerned that “41 Senate Democrats” might succeed in stopping the confirmation of Miguel Estrada, nominated by George W. Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Will wrote: “If Senate rules, exploited by an anti-constitutional minority, are allowed to trump the Constitution’s text and two centuries of practice, the Senate’s power to consent to judicial nominations will have become a Senate right to require a supermajority vote for confirmation.”

Well, today, in a column headlined “For Liberals, the Filibuster Is Now the Enemy,” Will sees it differently. Now when he thinks back on Republicans attempts to junk the filibuster toconfirm Bush’s judicial nominees, he recalls that that was a bad idea:

In 2005, many Republicans, frustrated by Democrats blocking confirmation votes, wanted to ban filibusters of judicial nominees. They said such filibusters unconstitutionally prevent the president from doing his constitutional duty of staffing the judiciary. But this is not just the president’s duty; the Senate has the constitutional role of consenting–or not–to nominations.

So the George Will Constitutional Theory goes something like this: Filibusters are good when Republicans do them, and bad when Democrats do them. And he has the chutzpah to mock both parties as “situational ethicists regarding filibusters.”

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.