Harvard Dems Filibuster “Nuclear Option”

TALKING THE TALK
Lowell K. Chow

Christopher J. Crisman-Cox ’08 recites Shakespeare’s 48th Sonnet during the Harvard College Democrats’ filibuster yesterday.

Reading everything from knock-knock jokes to plays to chemistry papers, the Harvard College Democrats completed a 25-hour mock filibuster in front of the Science Center at one o’clock this morning.

The protest is part of an ongoing effort on college campuses nationwide to oppose recent efforts by Republican Senators to prevent Democratic Senators from using filibusters as a means to block President Bush’s judicial appointments.

Members of the Dems read a variety of materials in half-hour time slots as they tracked the passing hours on a large poster board.

Dems members say the chose to filibuster for 25 hours because it is one hour longer than the longest known filibuster in Senate history—the late Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 24-hour filibuster of a civil rights bill in 1957.

Dems President Gregory M. Schmidt ’06, who read excerpts from the play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” said the group’s objectives were twofold.

“The first is to raise awareness on Harvard’s campus about this issue,” Schmidt said. “The second goal is to be a part of the national effort.”

Thomas R. Jackson ’08, a Dems member-at-large, said he read from John F. Kennedy’s ’40 “Profiles in Courage” to honor the current efforts of Democratic Senators.

“Kennedy did graduate from Harvard and the book talks about Senators who went against what was popular at the time to do what’s right,” Jackson said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer ’71, D-N.Y., said he appreciates that college students are protesting in favor of filibusters.

“We have to spread the word all over America that the republicans are overreaching and eliminating checks and balances. I welcome them,” Schumer said.

Students have also been staging filibusters at other schools including Yale, Stanford, Boston College, and Tufts.

Down in New Jersey, Princeton students are now in the 16th consecutive day of symbolic filibustering in front of the college’s Frist Campus Center—a building funded by the family of Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn. As the Senate’s majority leader, Frist, who graduated from Princeton in 1974, has led the anti-filibuster charge.

In addition to “filibustering” for over 350 consecutive hours, students at Princeton have been raising money for a 24-hour mock filibuster on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. It is scheduled to begin this morning.

While Democratic students have been largely opposed to the “Nuclear Option,” what they are calling the Republican attempt to stop the filibuster, the Harvard Republican Club (HRC) is supporting Republican Senate leaders.

HRC Spokeswoman Paloma A. Zepeda ’06 wrote in an e-mail that while the HRC compliments the Dems on their ingenuity, it strongly disagrees with their ideological position.

“The ‘protest filibuster’ staged by the College Dems is a creative and kind of funny protest, but the Republican Club strongly disagrees with the position of the Dems on stalling and obstructionist tactics in the Senate,” Zepeda wrote.

In his weekly news conference with reporters yesterday, Frist said that a vote on Senate rules regarding filibusters could be brought to the Senate floor as early next week, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The current filibuster option forces 60 out of 100 Senators to approve judicial nominations rather than a simple majority. Democrats have blocked 10 of Bush’s appellate court appointments by using the threat of a filibuster, according to the AP.

—Staff writer Evan M. Vittor can be reached at evittor@fas.harvard.edu.