A July 17 New York Times article asserted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) plan to, in the Times' words, "keep the Senate in session through the night on Tuesday in an effort to highlight Republican resistance to allowing a simple majority vote on a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq" has caused "some eye-rolling" because "Democrats said they were determined to protect the rights of the minority" during a 2003 showdown over judicial nominations. The article then quoted Sen. John Warner (R-VA) extolling the "old rules" of the Senate that allow the minority party to filibuster. But, contrary to the article's suggestion, Reid has done nothing to change or bend those "old rules" or to undermine the right of the minority party to filibuster legislative actions it opposes. Indeed, reporter Carl Hulse gave no explanation for his suggestion that Reid's decision to force Republicans to carry out an actual filibuster of the withdrawal plan -- rather than simply allowing them to block the measure through a cloture vote -- is somehow inconsistent with the Democrats' efforts to protect the rights of the minority party in 2003.
From the July 17 Times article:
It was a role reversal from the last such all-night session in November 2003. Senate Republicans kept the Senate open to complain about the Democrats' refusal to allow up-or-down votes on Mr. Bush's judicial nominees. Republicans did not record an immediate victory. But they say the judicial marathon eventually helped to weaken Democratic resistance and pin the label of obstructionist on Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic leader, who was unseated by voters the next year.
During the judicial battle, Democrats said they were determined to protect the rights of the minority, so there was some eye-rolling Monday as Mr. Reid announced his plan.
"These are old rules that date back, I might say with some sense of pride, to Thomas Jefferson," said Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia.
By asserting that "[d]uring the judicial battle, Democrats said they were determined to protect the rights of the minority, so there was some eye-rolling Monday as Mr. Reid announced his plan" before quoting Sen. Warner's assertion that "[t]hese are old rules," the Times suggested that Reid and Democrats were taking steps similar to those taken in 2003, when Republicans publicly floated the idea of changing Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster in the case of judicial nominations. Reid and the Democrats have made no such proposal.
On June 25, 2003, The Washington Post reported on the GOP plan to prevent Democrats from filibustering:
With Democrats conspicuously absent, a Senate committee's Republican majority approved a GOP leadership proposal yesterday to curb filibusters aimed at blocking President Bush's judicial nominations.
But the proposal faces formidable obstacles in the Senate, where Democrats, with the likely support of some Republicans, appear to have enough votes to keep it from taking effect. Proposed last month by Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and approved yesterday, 10 to 0, by the Rules and Administration Committee, the measure would prevent senators from indefinitely delaying a vote on any presidential nomination.
It normally takes 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to stop a filibuster and bring a nomination to a vote. Under Frist's proposal, the number would decline in successive roll calls: from 60 to 57, then 54 and eventually to a simple majority of 51. The process could take as little as two weeks.
Frist's move was prompted by fury among Republican colleagues over Democrats' filibusters to prevent confirmation votes on the federal appeals court nominations of Miguel Estrada and Priscilla R. Owen and threats of filibusters against at least two others. His proposal gathered steam as speculation increased that one or more Supreme Court justices might retire at the end of the court's term this month, opening the way for Bush to fill his first vacancy on the high court.
Reid's July 16 statement announcing his intention to force an overnight Republican filibuster asserted that Democrats sought not to end the filibuster, but to draw attention to it. From Reid's statement:
All Senators will be welcome to speak their mind. Those of us who are ready to end the war will make our case to the American people. Those who support the status quo are welcome to equal floor time to make their case. Let the American people hear the arguments. Let them see their elected representatives engaging in a full, open and honest debate. Let them hear why Republicans are obstructing us on this amendment.