Good morning. I'm Harry Reid from Nevada, the Democratic Leader in the Senate.
This weekend, spring has made it to Washington DC. From the window in my office in the Capitol, I can see down the Mall, past the Washington Monument and to the Lincoln Memorial. It's a long way from my hometown of Searchlight, Nev., and it's quite a view. The famous cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the city is crowded with visitors — especially young people, here with their families or with their schools.
As the kids line up at the National Archives to see the original copies of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they'll learn about "checks and balances" and "freedom of speech." And when they're done, I wish they would come down the street to the Capitol and teach some of what they've learned to the Congressional leaders of the Republican Party.
You see, in the past weeks, we've seen Republicans in Congress abuse their power in too many ways. We have a Republican leader threatening judges who protect our rights and corrupting our government by running roughshod over the ethics committee to protect himself.
Republicans are trying to increase their power even if it means ignoring rules that go back to America's beginnings. They seem to think that they know better than our Founding Fathers. Somehow, I doubt that's true.
In their latest move, President Bush and the Republican leadership are trying to ram through radical choices for judges who will serve a lifetime on the bench. They are trying to eliminate a two-hundred-year-old American rule that says that every member of the Senate has the right to rise to say their piece and speak on behalf of the people that sent them here.
This isn't about some arcane procedures of the Senate. It is about protecting liberty and our limited government.
This isn't about politics. In the past ... two Democratic presidents tried to take control of the judicial branch and Americans of all political stripes rightly spoke up to defeat those efforts.
It isn't even about judges. The fact is that this president has a better record of having his judicial nominees approved than any president in the past twenty-five years. Only 10 of 214 nominations have been turned down. And those ten had views that were totally out-of-touch with the mainstream values Americans share.
When it comes down to it, stripping away these important checks and balances is about the arrogance of those in power who want to rewrite the rules so that they can get their way.
It would mean that the U.S. Senate becomes merely a rubber stamp for the president.
It would mean that one political party — be it Republicans today or Democrats tomorrow — gets to have all the say over our nation's highest courts.
It would remove the checks on the president's power ... meaning that one man, sitting in the White House, could personally hand out lifetime jobs to judges whose rulings on our basic rights can last forever.
That's not how America works.
Here, in America, the people rule — and all the people have a voice.
Here, in America, our judges should be independent — not puppets dancing to the pull of one person in power or one political party's agenda.
We cannot sit by and allow the corruption of America's values in America's Congress. The Republicans who run Washington should start using their power for the good of all Americans, not abusing it for their own benefit.
Our Constitution tells us that the courts should be free from political pressure and that our rights are protected by checks and balances.
Our children know that you can't change the rules just to get your way. I think it's time that Washington Republicans remembered those truths.
This is Sen. Harry Reid. Thanks for listening.