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NYTimes changes its tune on the filibuster


On Monday evening, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered to block President Obama's appointment of an appeals-court nominee. Prior to the vote, the New York Times took to its own editorial page to condemn the GOP's past use of the filibuster and suggested that it might just be time for the U.S. Senate to ban filibusters for all judicial nominations.

Republicans are citing a self-serving tradition in the Senate not to act on any nominations in the final six months of a president’s term. This practice is known informally as the “Strom Thurmond rule” for the South Carolina obstructionist who started it in 1968. ...

It’s long past time to discard this rule — which is often broken by the Senate at its convenience, anyway — along with all filibusters of presidential appointments. As we urged in January, all judicial and executive nominees should get an up-or-down vote in 90 days, no matter who is president and no matter how close to an election.

This is an interesting change in tone from the Times given the stance it took in support of the filibuster in 2005 when George W. Bush was president and Democrats controlled the Senate.  At that time, the Times defended the filibuster's existence as "the center of the peculiar but effective form of government America cherishes."

While the filibuster has not traditionally been used to stop judicial confirmations, it seems to us this is a matter in which it's most important that a large minority of senators has a limited right of veto. Once confirmed, judges can serve for life and will remain on the bench long after Mr. Bush leaves the White House. And there are few responsibilities given to the executive and the legislature that are more important than choosing the members of the third co-equal branch of government. The Senate has an obligation to do everything in its power to ensure the integrity of the process.
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