Wednesday, June 08, 2005

No filibuster for you, Janice Rogers Brown!

I've already written a good deal about the filibuster deal that essentially paved the way for three of Bush's more extreme judicial nominees to be confirmed -- see here, here, and here -- and today Janice Rogers Brown followed Priscilla Owen as the second to be confirmed, also by a 56-43 vote in the Senate. The Post reports here.

It's tough not to be worn down by all this. I generally opposed the filibuster deal struck by moderates and mavericks in the Senate, not because I myself promote opposition for opposition's sake when it comes to anything Bush and the Republicans want to do, nor because I'm so far on the left that I simply oppose most or everything they want to do, nor because I oppose moderate solutions (in fact, we need more moderate solutions in this time of extreme partisanship). Indeed, I realize that a conservative president will nominate mostly conservative judges and that most of those nominees will go through, and that, on the whole, that's not necessarily such a bad thing. After all, a liberal president will nominate mostly liberal judges, and that's just the way it goes when judicial nominations are political. No, what I object to here is that the filibuster deal has allowed for the confirmation of three judges who, in my opinion (and in the opinion of many others), are well outside the mainstream of American life (after the Brown vote, the Senate voted to end the filibuster of William Pryor's nomination -- he will soon be confirmed). The Democrats allowed the vast majority of Bush's nominees to sail through, but they attempted to block these particular nominations for good reasons, not just to win some meaningless partisan battle. I address some of this in my previous posts (see links above), but Echidne of the Snakes, a fellow blogger, has a good post on Brown's extremism here.

The Democrats may yet try to block Bush's four other extremist nominees (Henry Saad, William Myers, William Haynes, and Brett Kavanaugh), as they were not included in the filibuster deal, but the damage has already been done. All I will say is that I would similarly object if a Democratic president attempted to push through similarly extremist nominees on the left. The filibuster is a valuable parliamentary tool to protect the minority party and to prevent extremism (although I realize that Southern segregationists used it in opposition to civil rights). The confirmations of Owen, Brown, and Pryor show what can happen when it is removed. (For more on this, see Mark Schmitt's interesting take on the filibuster and the intensity of political desire here. Although I worry about the relationship between desire and politics, and don't necessarily think that passion should guarantee success, Schmitt makes the persuasive point that the filibuster is "one of the few ways our democracy has to measure intensity of conviction".)

The filibuster deal may have been seen as a victory for the moderates, but it has not yet contributed anything to the cause of political moderation.

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