Sunday, May 01, 2005

Cuomo warns of "tyranny of the majority"


Cuomo warns of "tyranny of the majority"

NEW YORK (AP) — If Republicans rewrite Senate rules to more easily end filibusters, the country will experience "exactly the kind of 'tyranny of the majority' that James Madison had in mind," former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said Saturday.

Cuomo, in the Democratic Party's weekly radio address, said Senate Republicans "are threatening to claim ownership of the Supreme Court and other federal courts, hoping to achieve political results on subjects like abortion, stem cells, the environment and civil rights that they cannot get from the proper political bodies."

"How will they do this? By destroying the so-called filibuster, a vital part of the 200-year-old system of checks and balances in the Senate," Cuomo said.

"The Republicans say it would assure dominance by the majority in the Senate," he said. "That sounds democratic until you remember that the Bill of Rights was adopted, as James Madison pointed out, to protect all of Americans from what he called the 'tyranny of the majority.'"

"It sounds nearly absurd when you learn that the minority Democrats in the Senate actually represent more Americans than the majority Republicans do," Cuomo said.

Democrats have blocked 10 of President Bush's appellate court choices through filibuster threats. Under current Senate rules, 60 votes are needed in the 100-member body to end a filibuster. Republicans are threatening to use their majority to change the rules and require only a simple majority vote to end a filibuster.

"The Republican senators should instead start working with the Democrats to address all the serious problems of this country in the proper forums — in the Congress and in the presidency — leaving the judges to be judges instead of a third political branch controlled by the whim of the politicians in power," Cuomo said.

Cuomo, who was leading in Democratic polls in late 1991 when he pulled the plug on a possible presidential bid, lost the New York governorship in 1994 as he sought a fourth term against current Republican Gov. George Pataki. He later turned down a chance to be considered by President Clinton for a Supreme Court seat.