While the nation’s attention has been focused on Iraq as it becomes the next battlefield in the war against terrorism, another battle is being fought in the United States Senate. And though it may be bloodless, it is none the less dangerous to our way of life.
At the moment, a minority of liberal Democrats led by Sens. Tom Daschle, Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy are engaging in a filibuster to keep Judge Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote. If his nomination comes up for a vote, Estrada will undoubtedly be confirmed as the nation’s first Hispanic appellate court judge on the DC Circuit.
Estrada is not the only nominee of President George W. Bush that the Democrats have sought to block. From the very beginning of his administration, the Democrats in the U.S. Senate have effectively denied Bush his constitutional duty to appoint federal judges. No president in modern American history has been denied his appointment authority to the degree that the Democrats have denied this president. After Bush’s two years in office, the Senate has confirmed only 53 percent of his judicial nominees. In comparison to other recent presidents, after two years in office 86 percent of Bill Clinton’s, 96 percent of George H.W. Bush’s, 95 percent of Ronald Reagan’s and 100 percent of Jimmy Carter’s nominees had been confirmed.
Obstruction of this magnitude of the presidential power to appoint judges is not only unprecedented; it is also a threat to our constitutional form of government.
To understand why the actions of this group of senators are so alarming, it is helpful to take a look at the constitutional roles of our three branches of government — the legislative, the judicial and the executive branches. The genius of the U.S. Constitution is the intentional separation of powers among these distinct branches to dilute the power of the federal government.
The legislative branch, as you know, consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate: these are the branches of our government that are closest to the people. It is in the legislative branch that our laws are made and the appropriation of our tax dollars is decided.
The judicial branch is distinctly different. First of all, federal judges are not elected; the President appoints them for lifetime terms.
Consequently, they are not as sensitive to public opinion as elected officials are and therefore not as likely to make politically motivated rulings. Their sole function is to ensure that our laws are constitutional and properly applied. It was never the intention of the framers of our Constitution that federal judges would usurp the authority of the legislative branch by using their court decisions to create new laws or to intentionally misinterpret the Constitution to further their personal views or agendas.
Given that the president is the only member of our government elected in a national election, the executive branch represents all the people. Among the most important duties of the President is the constitutionally mandated authority to appoint federal judges. The only provision in the Constitution that in any way affects this responsibility is the provision that his judicial nominees are to be subject to confirmation by a majority of the U.S. Senate.
Specifically, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states that the president “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint