Remarks by Senator Harry Reid - March 15, 2005
Checks and Balances
On a late September day in 1787, the Constitutional Convention
finished its work. As Benjamin Franklin walked down the steps
of Independence Hall, a Philadelphia woman named Elizabeth Powell
stopped him and asked, "Well, Doctor, what have we got: a republic
or a monarchy?"
"A republic. If you can keep it."
than two centuries, we have kept our republic because Americans
have understood that our liberty is protected by our laws and
by a government of limited powers.
provides for checks and balances so that no one person in power,
so that no one political party can hold total control over the
course of our nation.
in order to break down the separation of powers and ram through
their appointees to the judicial branch, President Bush and the
Republican leadership want to eliminate a two-hundred-year-old
American rule saying that every member of the Senate can rise
to say their piece and speak on behalf of the people that sent
is that this President has a better record of having his judicial
nominees approved than any President in the past twenty-five years.
Only ten of 214 nominations have been turned down.
So it is
clear that this attempt to strip away these important checks and
balances is not about judges. It is about the desire for absolute
But our nation's
basic rules are there for the moments when the eyes of the powerful
grow large and hungry; when their willfulness makes them determined
to do whatever it takes to win, and prevail at whatever the cost.
and parties have grown drunk with power before. Two Presidents
of my own party --Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt-- began
their second terms of office with majorities in Congress and then
tried to change the rules governing judges so that they could
stack the court with those who would do their bidding. They were
wrong to try to change our basic American rules -- and Americans,
and Senators of both parties, stood up to tell them so.
attempt is being considered to rewrite the rules so that those
in power can get their way.
mean that the US Senate becomes merely a rubber stamp for the
mean that one political party --be it Republicans today or Democrats
tomorrow-- gets to have all the say.
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