Monday, May 23, 2005

The Democrats cave: No filibuster for extremist judges

I usually support moderation to left-right extremism, and hence moderate solutions to left-right paralysis, but the agreement between Republicans and seven moderate Democrats to allow three of Bush's extremist judicial nominees to go straight to a floor vote without filibuster -- reported here -- doesn't seem like much of a compromise to me. However much moderates like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut are praising this last-minute effort to avert "nuclear" catastrophe in the Senate, it is clear that Bush and the Republicans have won. After all, the Senate had already confirmed the vast majority of Bush's nominees, and the "Odious Seven" left over are clearly extremists. See my recent post for a longer take on this. A better option is outlined by Mark Schmitt at The Decembrist (a great blog: see link, right), but now even that one is out of the question. Instead of moderate Republicans siding with unified Democrats to protect the filibuster (and hence indirectly to vote down Bush's extremist nominees), moderate Democrats have sided with unified Republicans (John McCain was "a chief architect of the deal") to guarantee confirmation for three of Bush's extremist nominees without effectively closing debate on the nuclear option, which may be used later to ram through a Supreme Court nominee. So what have the Democrats won? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Schmitt was right to point out that a compromise would have been "disastrous" for Senate Majority Leader (and 2008 aspirant) Bill Frist. Which is precisely why this isn't a compromise of any kind. The Democrats -- some of them, anyway -- have caved. This is a huge moral victory for a beleaguered Republican Party, and both the White House and Congress will no doubt seek to keep up the momentum going forward. Who are the cowards now?

UPDATE: Mark Schmitt's latest on the filibuster fiasco take can be found here: "If the goal of liberals is to block a truly extremist Supreme Court nominee, block Social Security privatization and more tax cuts, block Bolton, and then begin to shift the debate back to issues of economic security, health care, global leadership, etc., the best possible thing that can happen is for the White House and its agents, such as Frist, to lose their control of all the levers of power in Congress. That's indisputably what this deal does, and for that, I'll learn to love it." Schmitt offers three compelling rationalizations for why the "compromise" may not be so bad after all, but I'm not yet convinced. Then again, I'm allowed to remain unconvinced. Writing a blog and commenting on American politics allows me a certain distance from the real world, and, as Schmitt himself admits, "[a] deal that someone like me would be ecstatic about probably wouldn't attract much Republican support". Fair enough. We'll have to live with the deal and hope that, in future, Republicans won't once again threaten to use the nuclear option (thought I suspect they will). With time, I may come to see the wisdom of Schmitt's analysis. Right now, I see its outlines, but I'm just too angry to think clearly enough about the implications of this less-than-ideal compromise -- and learning to love it, if I may reference Seinfeld, seems like learning to love a football-sized boil growing out of the side of your neck.

Bookmark and Share


  • I agree with you. I don't see how this helps the Democrats. I'm not a big fan of the filibuster in general, but given that this president believes his 3 % mandate entitles him to run over the Democratic minority, I don't see what's served by letting the worst of the nominees get by. (Not that three judges are likely to change the courts that much.) Maybe, as Mark says, they didn't have a choice, but it just seems like another rollover. Like you, I'm all for compromise but the GOP's idea of compromise seems to be, give us what we want and we won't rape you tonight. But as long as you can get what you want without having to give up much,why wouldn't Bush, or any decent politician, keep doing it?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:58 AM  

  • I take Mark's analysis very seriously, and I do respect his decision to try to learn to love it. But to me it smacks more of capitulation than compromise. True, Frist and the extremists didn't get their way (and this may further fracture the fragile GOP coalition), but I don't see how this helps Democrats in the long run. You're right, Marc, three judges (even two of three, should one go down) may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but I see this as a huge moral victory for the Republicans, precisely at a time when Democrats seemed united and Republicans were backtracking on social security. All this means is that Democratic unity didn't hold, and I suspect that the Republicans will trot out the nuclear option whenever they want to get their way. After all, what we've learned here is that Republicans are tougher than Democrats. The Republicans know this -- and they'll exploit it. It's their way.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 1:41 AM  

  • I'm sure this will be deleted, but youse guyse have not read the Constitution, or at the very least don't understand it.

    There are 3 separate branches of Gov't.

    the judicial. they are supposed to be impartial, non-political and do nothing more than say that the case in front of them either is constitutional or it is not. period.

    They are not there to do anything else. Especially, they are not there to 'correct' any perceived societal wrongs.

    And the are especially not there to have findings that somehow become the law.

    Law making is strictly and only the province of the LEGISLATIVE branch. And all the legislative branch is charged with is to make laws.

    The last and separate branch is the EXECUTIVE branch. They are there to enforce the laws.

    Currently, strictly and only the legislative and executive have any checks and balances.

    in the case of judges, the constitution is very clear. the congress, specifically the Senate is to ADVISE, meaning to REPORT, and not to give personal feelings. Your high school report card was an advise from the teacher to the parent. it is an old term, not the new definition of to suggest how something should be.

    And the second half is to consent. ergo, advise and consent.

    Congress does not create a pool that the executive gets to select from, just as the president does not create any agenda for the congress.

    The Senate has the responsibility to report the findings of their research into the candidate, and then to decide, by majority, a simple majority, to make a judge.

    I agree that what happened is wrong. the whole idea of the senate proposing a pool of judges to chose from is totally un-constitutional as is the refusal to vote on them.

    BTW, the filibuster is only alive today because a bill to eliminate was defeated.

    reduce the supermajority from two-thirds to three-fifths.

    Robert Byrd, D, W,Va.

    • Broke a filibuster in 1977 with a simple majority vote.

    • Threatened in 1979 to change Senate rules to break a filibuster, asserting that “this Congress is not obliged to be bound by the dead hand of the past” and that “rules have been changed from time to time.”

    • Made other parliamentary maneuvers in 1980 and 1987 to stifle debate.

    The judicial branch has checks over the legislative, but neither the executive, nor the legislative has any checks over the judicial.

    The whole worry over 'radical' judges would vanish with an amendment that would allow the removal of rogue and radical judges.

    What is entirely unfair to anybody who is not completely politically motivated is that judges like Clarence Thomas lose out to innuendo. remember the phrase "it's the seriousness of the charges" ?

    Hilliary had Vince Foster shot. Very serious charges. where is the investigation ?
    Bill gave/sold missile technology to China. Very serious charges.
    George went to war over fictitious reasons. Very serious charges.

    We have seen courts get it completely wrong and get overturned higher up. Some courts soooo many times more than others, there should be a way to remove bad judges by congressional and Executive action, just like the way we do laws. Congreess reviews, passes, and the Pres concurs and signs.

    Only when we can stop bad judges will the whole mess go away.

    But, alas, I'm sure some very partisan, politically motovated person will use the delete key to silence any debate.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:43 PM  

  • No, Anonymous, I have no intention of deleting your comments. I'd only delete something here if it was somehow abusive or otherwise disrespectful. You're entitled to your opinions, and I'm glad you took the time to comment on one of my posts.

    First, let me say that I do not defend what is obviously Democratic hypocrisy here. In fact, both sides are being hypocritical. Republicans are more than happy to use the filibuster against a Democratic president, and Democrats obviously have done the same. And Senator Byrd has been one of the worst offenders.

    Although I defend the use of the filibuster as a necessary parliamentary tool to protect against simple majoritarianism, I agree with you that one of the problems is the politicization of the judiciary. Thankfully, most nominees go through -- as I've often mentioned, Democrats have indeed acquiesced to most of Bush's choices for the federal judiciary. But there is a problem when "bad" judges end up near the top of the judiciary, however, and I think that that's one of the reasons why Bush's more extreme nominees are so unacceptable. Perhaps some measure to remove such "bad" judges could work, though I suspect that that, too, would be politicized.

    I don't necessarily disagree with your reading of the Constitution, but I do think that some extra-constitutional parliamentary tools need to be preserved. After all, the Constitution, great as it may be, doesn't spell everything out. It alone cannot be a model for government.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 2:30 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home