The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Filibuster Roundup

A compromise has been reached:

The compromise on Monday night was reached by an assortment of moderates, mavericks and senior statesmen just as the Senate was headed into a climactic overnight debate on the filibuster. Judge Owen and two other previously blocked appeals court nominees - Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor - will get floor votes under the last-second agreement. No commitment was made on the fate of two others, William Myers and Henry Saad.

In addition, the seven Democrats in the deal vowed that they would filibuster future judicial nominees only under "extraordinary" circumstances. Their Republican counterparts promised to support no changes in Senate rules that would alter the filibuster rule, effectively denying the votes it would take to enact such a rules change.

For reaction try the following:

Stephen Bainbridge, I think, gets it right, and takes his fellow conservatives (most of whom have truly overreacted to this deal) to task:

The filibuster is a profoundly conservative tool. It slows change by allowing a resolute minority to delay - to stand athwart history shouting stop. It ensures that change is driven not "merely by temporary advantage or popularity" but by a substantial majority. Is it any wonder that it has usually been liberals who want to change or abolish the filibuster rule?

Proponents of the "nuclear option" claim to believe that abolishing the filibuster could be limited to judicial nominations. It's a coin flip as to whether this is naive or disingenuous. It's a slippery slope to abolishing the filibuster as to Presidential nominations or even legislation. Would the GOP be tempted to abolish the filibuster if necessary to put John Bolton at the UN? Or to ram through social security reform? Even if the GOP resisted that temptation, what happens the next time the Democrats control the Senate? A GOP-established legislative and institutional precedent for abolishing the filibuster as to judicial nominations would make it all that much easier for the Democrats to do the same as to nominations or legislation.

I'm with Glenn:

As I've said before, I'd probably care more about this issue if Bush looked likely to appoint some small-government libertarian types to the bench. Since he doesn't, I don't.

Andrew Sullivan is worth reading.

As is Noam Schreiber, who's not happy:

Once again, the Republicans have shown their skillfulness when it comes to resetting parameters. Until recently, the perception had been that Bush had consistently filled the courts with extreme conservatives, with only a handful of truly batty nominees failing to meet the standards of Democrats. Now, facing the threat of the "nuclear option," Democrats have backed down on these as well. Thanks to the "finest traditions of the Senate" (Robert Byrd's words yesterday), there's a new agreement under which, presumably, only the certifiably insane can possibly be blocked--or, to put it as the senators did, nominees can "only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances." That way, if Bush's pick for a judgeship finally goes too far even for Republicans--if he nominates, say, an Irish setter who, during confirmation hearings, runs up and bites Orrin Hatch in the leg, then Democrats will be allowed to play the bad guys and employ their filibuster. Otherwise, they'd better hold off, since, if they don't, Republicans might have to take the filibuster away for real.

Kos has a fairly pragmatic take:

In order to save face, Republicans have gotten up or down votes on most of the handful of judges who are currently being filibustered. It's a price, but a relatively small one to pay to protect the filibuster during the next Supreme Court battle.

Given that we have a 10-seat deficit in the Senate, that's no small feat.

Brian Leiter...not so much.

I think that both parties have been big babies about this issue, and frankly I'm glad to see that they resolved it without any scratching or hair pulling.


  • Am I the only one who thinks both sides got a raw deal? This is less a compromise and more a deferment if you ask me (and nobody does).

    By Blogger Ace Cowboy, at 1:36 PM  

  • I think this solution accurately reflects how power is currently distributed. The dominant party gets some of what it wants, the minority party maintains their ability nuisance ability. Neither side got what it wanted, but isn't that better than having one side get everything they wanted and the other resorting to drastic measures?

    We'll see if it delays the inevitable. It's possible, but I think that members of both parties have payed a price for this stupidity and eventually some sect of one part is going to sell out the other side.

    What if we get to a Supreme Court nominee and 10 Republicans decide they would rather not see a social conservative on the bench? Then the democrats don't need to filibuster.

    With the stakes so high I think it's a likely scenario, but we'll see. I hope I'm right, because it will certainly suck if I'm not.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 1:46 PM  

  • "Neither side got what it wanted, but isn't that better than having one side get everything they wanted and the other resorting to drastic measures?"

    Much better. And speaking as a "libral puke" (as my boss calls me), I'm glad it worked out this way and not with total power in the hands of the GOP.

    What I'm hoping for right now is that the GOP splits on economic/social issues sooner rather than later. It's gonna happen, so let's make it happen now.

    By Blogger Ace Cowboy, at 2:13 PM  

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