TOPIC: Foreign Policy & Defense
April 13, 2005
Statement of Senator Barack Obama
The Nuclear Option Washington, DC
I rise today to urge my colleagues to think about the implications
the nuclear option would have on this chamber and this country.
I urge you to think not just about winning every debate, but about
protecting free and democratic debate.
During my Senate
campaign, I had the privilege and the opportunity to meet Americans
from all walks of life and both ends of the political spectrum.
They told me about their lives, about their hopes, about the issues
that mattered to them, and they also told me what they think about
all heard it yourselves, I know it won't surprise many of you to
learn that a lot of people don't think much gets done around here
about the issues they care most about. They think the atmosphere
has become too partisan, the arguments have become too nasty, and
the political agendas have become too petty.
And while I haven't
been here too long, I've noticed that partisan debate is sharp,
and dissent is not always well-received. Honest differences of opinion
and principled compromise often seem to be the victim of a determination
to score points against one's opponents.
But the American
people sent us here to be their voice. They understand that those
voices can at times become loud and argumentative, but they also
hope that we can disagree without being disagreeable. And at the
end of the day, they expect both parties to work together to get
the people's business done.
What they don't
expect is for one party - be it Republican or Democrat - to change
the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the
decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet.
The American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone
in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster
- if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic
debate - then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will
only get worse.
I understand that
Republicans are getting a lot of pressure to do this from factions
outside the chamber. But we need to rise above an "ends justify
the means" mentality because we're here to answer to the people
- all of the people - not just the ones wearing our party label.
The fact is that
both parties have worked together to confirm 95% of this President's
judicial nominees. The Senate has accepted 205 of his 214 selections.
In fact, we just confirmed another one judge this week by a vote
of 95-0. Overall, this is a better record than any President's had
in the last 25 years. For a President who received 51% of the vote
and a Senate chamber made up of 55% of the President's party, I'd
say that confirming 95% of your judicial nominations is a record
I'd be pretty happy with.
Again, I urge
my Republican colleagues not to go through with changing these rules.
In the long run, this is not a good result for either party. One
day Democrats will be in the majority again, and this rule change
will be no fairer to a Republican minority than it is to a Democratic
I sense that talk of the nuclear option is more about power than
about fairness. I believe some of my colleagues propose this rules
change because they can get away with it rather than because they
know it's good for our democracy.
Right now, we're
faced with rising gas prices, skyrocketing tuition costs, a record
number of uninsured Americans, and some of the most serious national
security threats we've ever had, all while our bravest young men
and women are risking their lives halfway around the world to keep
These are challenges
we all want to meet and problems we all want to solve, even if we
don't all agree how to do it. But if the right of free and open
debate is taken away from the minority party and the millions of
Americans who asked us to be their voice, I fear that the already
partisan atmosphere of Washington will be poisoned to the point
where no one will be able to agree on anything. That doesn't serve
anyone's best interests, and it certainly isn't what the patriots
who founded this democracy had in mind.
We owe the people
who sent us here more than that. We owe them much more.