The Schiavo bill and the “nuclear option”

Was the whole point to mobilize Christian Right voters to help change the filibuster rule?

As discussion around the lawblogs makes it clear how badly drafted the Schiavo bill turned out to be, the question of how that happened gets more interesting. Jonathan Zasloff, whose mind is even more devious than mine (as a result, no doubt, of having gone to grade school with Eugene Volokh) offers what seems like a sensible, if arcane, speculation:

The whole POINT was not to grant relief. This would enable the Republicans to say that a “runaway federal judiciary” was ignoring the will of Congress. And this just so happens to occur when the Republicans are about the exercise the nuclear option regarding filibusters of judicial nominees. Just another way to astroturf this issue among the Christian right. “Make sure that what happened to Terri Schiavo doesn’t happen again!”

I’d proposed a version of the “gambit” theory earlier, but I hadn’t thought about the “nuclear option” as the context.

Another reader pointed out in response to my earlier post that it avoided assuming a mistake by Frist only by assuming a mistake by Levin. But of course they could have been playing for different goals: Frist to set up the nuclear option and ingratiate himself with the religious right for his Presidential run in 2008, Levin to defend at least some aspect of the rule of law and to put a merciful end to the Schiavo drama.

I admit it’s a twisted kind of sense, but overall it seems to make sense.


Great minds…

Garance Franke-Ruta at Tapped comes to the same conclusion.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: