t r u t h o u t - Sidney Blumenthal | Bush the Despot: "President Bush's drive for absolute power has momentarily stalled. In a single coup, he planned to take over all the institutions of government. By crushing the traditions of the Senate he would pack the courts, especially the Supreme Court, with lock-step ideologues. Sheer force would prevail. But just as his blitzkrieg reached the outskirts of his objective he was struck by a mutiny. Within a span of 24 hours he lost control not only of the Senate but, temporarily, of the House of Representatives, which was supposed to be regimented by unquestioned loyalty. Now he prepares to launch a counterattack -- against the dissident elements of his own party.
Bush's wonder weapon for total victory was a device called the 'nuclear option.' Once triggered, it would obliterate a 200-year-old tradition of the Senate. The threat of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate of Bush's appointments to the federal bench would set the doomsday sequence in motion. The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, would call for a change in the rule, and a simple majority would vote to abolish the filibuster. Bush's nominees would then sail through.
Unlike the House, the Senate was constructed by the constitutional framers as an unrepresentative body, with each state, regardless of population, allotted two senators. (Currently, Republicans have 55 senators who represent only 45 percent of the country.) The Senate creates its own rules, and the filibuster can be stopped only by a super-majority of 60 votes. Historically, it was used by Southern senators to block civil rights legislation. In the first two years of the Clinton presidency, Republicans deployed 48 filibusters, more than in the entire previous history of the Senate, to make the new Democratic chief executive appear feckless. The strategy was instrumental in the Republican capture of Congress in 1994. By depriving Democrats of the filibuster, Bush intended to transform the Senate into his rubber stamp."