MSNBC host Keith Olbermann noted that the Family Research Council (FRC), which is currently campaigning to stop filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees by Senate Democrats, was quite vocal in the late 1990s in defending the right to filibuster another presidential nominee, James C. Hormel, who was nominated by President Clinton as ambassador to Luxembourg.
On the April 25 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, host Olbermann recounted a statement made July 2, 1998, on National Public Radio by FRC senior writer Steven Schwalm:
OLBERMANN: As mentioned, the filibuster stretches back not merely to Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but to the presidential administration of Franklin Pierce 152 years ago. And, as a last measure of the defense of the minority, it has had many supporters over the years, like the very people of faith who sponsored yesterday's "Justice Sunday," the group Family Research Council.
Yesterday, it was opposed to filibusters. Seven years ago, it was in favor of them. That's when Clinton and a then-Democratic plurality in the Senate wanted a man named James Hormel to become the ambassador to Luxembourg. Hormel, of the Spam-and-other-meats Hormels, was gay, as the Senate minority bottled up Hormel's nomination with filibusters and threats of filibusters, minority relative to cloture, to breaking up a filibuster.
They did that for a year and a half. The Family Research Council's senior writer, Steven Schwalm, appeared on National Public Radio at the time and explained the value, even the necessity, of the filibuster.
"The Senate," he said, "is not a majoritarian institution, like the House of Representatives is. It is a deliberative body, and it's got a number of checks and balances built into our government. The filibuster is one of those checks in which a majority cannot just sheerly force its will, even if they have a majority of votes in some cases. That's why there are things like filibusters, and other things that give minorities in the Senate some power to slow things up, to hold things up, and let things be aired properly."
It's been said many times, many ways, that was then, and this is now.
After his original nomination in 1997 and re-nomination in January 1999 were blocked by Senate Republicans, Hormel was granted a recess appointment to the post by Clinton in June 1999. He served until December 2000.