Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 11, 2005

`Nuclear option' can revive rights of the majority

President Bill Clinton had a Democratic Congress in 1993 and 1994. During this time, none of the judges he nominated was filibustered by the minority Republicans ("W. Va. senator leads fight against GOP's `nuclear option,'" April 3).

Elections have consequences and, with the presidency and the Senate held by the Democrats, the nominated judges deserved to have a hearing and a vote. And that is what happened.

Of course, when the Senate was taken over by the Republicans in 1996, President Clinton's nominations were more scrutinized and fewer got through the Senate. That's as it should be; again, elections have consequences.

Now it is the Democratic Party which has taken this issue to the next (and inappropriate) level.

Having lost an election, the Democrats still want to maintain their power through extraconstitutional means. This action is unprecedented for judicial nominations.

If President Bush nominates an "extreme" conservative judge, the proper response is to convince six of the 55 Republican senators that the judge is not fit for service.

I am a Democrat, but I cannot support my party in this case. Elections have consequences. One day, the Democrats will be back in power and the measures the Democrats are now using may be used against them.

These filibusters should not be allowed to stand, and I support the Republicans' attempts to stop them.

Mark Campbell

Millersville

Seeking to restore 51-vote threshold

The Republican plan to stop the blockade of the president's judicial nominees isn't nearly as radical as we've been led to believe. All it really involves is restoring constitutional order to a process that's been hijacked by Senate liberals ("W. Va. senator leads fight against GOP's `nuclear option,'" April 3).

Fifty-one votes is the legal and historical requirement for getting a nominee approved, not the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, which Democrats have used to keep qualified judges they oppose off the bench.

Republicans seek only to reinstate the traditional 51-vote threshold.

Betty Papson

Phoenix

Filibusters protect fundamental rights

Attempts in the U.S. Senate to allow a simple majority to limit debate on judicial nominees, the so-called nuclear option, do a disservice to our democracy ("W. Va. senator leads fight against GOP's `nuclear option,'" April 3).

Our nation derives its strength not simply from majority rule but from its defense of the rights of the political, ethnic and racial minorities to dissent and to have an impact on the political process.

The nuclear option has not arisen in a vacuum.

It is intended to further an agenda of appointing extreme right-wing nominees to our appeals courts - including, most likely, the Supreme Court - and in the process to overturn our hard-won fundamental rights, including our reproductive freedom.

There is no evidence a majority of the American people support this agenda.

The Senate's energies would be better spent working for compromise and consensus to strengthen our tradition of a truly independent judiciary rather than eliminating a rule that could protect us from dire consequences of ideological court-packing.

Marlene Leonard

Columbia

The writer is state public affairs chairwoman for the National Council of Jewish Women.

Stem cell research best hope for cure

Thank you to John Gearhart for "Maryland must explore stem cells' promise" (Opinion

Commentary, April 4) and for all he does daily to help cure my 6-year-old son of juvenile diabetes.

I believe that stem cell research is my family's best chance for a cure and that Maryland has a chance to lead the way to finding that cure.

I have seen firsthand the joy a parent gets from finally conceiving a child through in vitro fertilization. It is a bumpy road riddled with ups and downs. Still, it has given hope and joy to so many couples desperate for a child.

Stem cell research is an extension of that hope and love, that desperate desire for life.

By using the embryos that otherwise would be destroyed, scientists are taking that love, that hope, and transferring it to children and adults who are desperate for a chance for a normal, healthy life.

Rachael Beck

Eldersburg

High-stakes testing distorts curriculum

While I don't necessarily agree with the importance of penmanship suggested in "Vanishing Letters" (April 3), the feature did highlight one of the many problems with today's education policy: the privileging of high-stakes testing over a culture of teaching and learning.

As the article explains, one of the concerns about handwriting is how fast and fluently students can physically write for standardized exams and how the writing - the actual formation of the letters, not necessarily the content - will affect scoring of these exams.

I, too, am concerned about students' education opportunities and performance. But I don't think high-stakes exams are the best method of understanding how schools and students are performing.

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