Ben Nelson Senate's Last Hopeby Kyle Michaelis
The way national media are reporting on this thing, that leaves one man who stands in the way of the dreaded Nuclear Option - which would shatter the long-standing minority protections in the U.S. Senate and bring that institutions work to a halt. Who is this brave soul? None other than Nebraska Democratic Senator Ben Nelson. The Washington Post reports:
There is still a chance that a confrontation can be avoided, if a bipartisan group of senators finds support for a compromise.This is a mighty task which Nelson has undertaken, and all Nebraskans should be proud of his efforts on their behalf. Whether a success or failure, Nelson can be counted on to work until the very last moment to avert this legislative catastrophe.
The group, led by Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and John McCain, R-Ariz., had deferred to Frist and Reid. But now it plans to intensify discussions in hopes of attracting half a dozen members from each party to agree to a deal that would block any change in the Senate rules while allowing filibusters only in extraordinary circumstances....
Nelson said he and others are prepared to find a compromise in the absence of a deal between Frist and Reid. The group has been discussing a deal in which a handful of Republicans would agree not to vote to bar filibusters on judicial nominations and Democrats would agree to avoid filibusters except in the most extraordinary cases.
The Lincoln Journal-Star thanks Nelson so:
Sen. Ben Nelson is getting deserved praise for his plan to move forward on President Bush's judicial nominees while avoiding either the end of the right to filibuster or shutting down the Senate.Meanwhile, the Omaha World-Herald got in on the action of praising Nelson with:
Last week the Washington Post commended Nelson's "admirable effort" to broker a deal among moderate senators of both parties...Nelson, a moderate who generally has not supported the filibusters of Bush's nominees, is doing the nation a great service in brokering this compromise. He is also doing a great service to his Nebraska constituents, who will certainly benefit from future filibusters as long as that right is preserved.
Nelson said he was working with Republican Sen. Trent Lott to facilitate talks between the parties. That's the kind of leadership that is crucial to actually accomplishing something, forging common ground that is considerate of all informed viewpoints.Bravo to Senator Nelson, whose lead we can hope Senator Chuck Hagel will follow in making a stand for common sense. Just last week Hagel said on national television:
The Republicans' hands aren't clean on this either, what we did to Bill Clinton's nominees, about 62 of them. We just didn't give them votes in committee or we just didn't bring them up. We need to work this through...I don't think it would be wise in the interests of our country or the United States Senate to let this come to this kind of an explosion in the United States Senate. My goodness, you've got a hundred United States senator. Some of us might be moderately intelligent enough to figure this out. We would, I think, debase our system and fail our country if we don't do this. But you can't give up a minority-rights tool in the interests of the country, like the filibuster.Sounds good but, in true Hagel fashion, he has played coy ever since with how he will vote if the Nuclear Option gets to the floor of the Senate, likely because of threats such as this from Rush Limbaugh:
I know he's running for president, but I don't know who he thinks his voting base is or is going to be. Because I guarantee - Senator Hagel, you know we love you here but I guarantee you - the last thing you want for your presidential campaign is for a Democrat...to say you are the kind of guy that gives the Senate Democrats hope. That is not going to help you as you seek the Republican nomination.Will Hagel back down to this extreme right-wing pressure, leaving Nelson and common sense hanging out to dry, to protect his presidential ambitions? Is he willing to forsake his "moderate intelligence" and principle to appease these rabid dogs' hunger for absolute power? Stay tuned. We'll know soon enough.
I've been at odds with Senator Hagel over the years, but, you know, in this case, this is an honest appraisal of the political climate and circumstances out there. The last thing he needs if he really wants the nomination, is to have a bunch of Democrat senators out there singing his praises.