WASHINGTON -- April 19 -- With Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist poised to unleash the so-called "nuclear option" as early as next week, People For the American Way Foundation will release a new television spot in targeted states and on national cable news Wednesday, urging Senators to preserve the filibuster for judicial nominees as a part of our system of checks and balances on government power.
The new 30-second ad in PFAWFs $5 million advertising and grassroots campaign features common-sense Republican firefighter Ted Nonini calling for the preservation of the filibuster. The ad raises concerns about recent threats against judges, and the increasingly controversial tactics by Senator Bill Frist, Trent Lott, and their allies on the Radical Right to eliminate the 200-year-old filibuster, a key check on one-party domination.
The ad follows on PFAWFs March 30 launch of its Mr. Smith Goes to Washington ad, which featured Nonini and the legendary filibustering "Senator Jefferson Smith" from the patriotic 1939 movie classic. The first ad has been shown on national broadcast and cable news shows and in 17 states and Washington DC, along with a companion print ad campaign.
Both ads were created by TV producer Norman Lear, co-founder of People For the American Way Foundation, and were produced by the Glover Park Group.
This ad has a simple and powerful message: America works best when no one party has absolute power, said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way Foundation. This message is even more urgent given Congressman Delays recent threats against the judges in the Schiavo case, and Senator Frists unconscionable plan to appear in the Justice Sunday simulcast, with its attempt to manipulate religion for political purposes. The filibuster, this 200-year-old check on one-party rule, has never been more important.
Several Republican Senators have announced they will not vote for the nuclear option because they believe doing so would alter the nature of the Senate and its special role in encouraging bipartisan compromise and consensus on important issues. Several others have expressed reservations about the wisdom of the action without publicly committing to vote against it. Currently, at least 60 Senate votes are needed to end a filibuster. If the nuclear option succeeds, the votes of just 50 senators - with Vice President Cheney providing the tie-breaker - would allow the confirmation of any federal judge, including Supreme Court justices, with no bipartisan support. Senator Frist needs the backing of at least 50 Senators to break Senate rules with this parliamentary dirty trick.
"The nuclear option vote is too close to call," said Neas. "And there's too much at stake to fail. So we are reaching out to Americans of every party and political persuasion. Together we are calling on Senators of both parties to show some common sense. We need to protect the independence of our courts and the checks and balances envisioned by our founding fathers. We need to defeat the nuclear option and preserve the filibuster."
Together with the release of the ad, PFAWF has created a new lapel button, featuring a still of Mr. Smith with a bright red gag across his mouth. Neas called it the new symbol of the resistance.