If You’re Being Run Out of Town, Get Out Front and Try to Make It Look Like a Parade

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Picking up on last week’s topic, the Senate today avoided a showdown over the filibuster of judicial nominees. How? As usual, by the Democrats deciding to give in rather than actually stand for something.

Under the agreement, brokered by a group of moderates from both parties, 3 of the disputed judges will be guaranteed a vote — which is to say, given the Republican majority, they have been guaranteed approval — 2 others will be left to face the possibility of filibuster, the Republicans promise not to change the Senate rules on filibusters, and the Democrats promise not to use the filibuster on judicial nominees in the future except in “extraordinary circumstances.”

In other words, the Republican majority will allow the Senate to keep the filibuster, so long as the Democrats promise never to use it. Can somebody explain to me how that’s a compromise? The filibuster is just as unavailable as if the rules had been changed. The right-wing interest groups get 3 of their most prized darlings — Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and Bill Pryor — confirmed for certain, and possibly 2 others. And the ground is now leveled and paved for President Bush to get absolutely anyone he wants appointed to fill the 2 or possibly 3 Supreme Court seats that will become vacant before he leaves office.

So what is it, exactly, that the Democrats got out of this “compromise”?

In a word, nothing.

Well, almost nothing. In essense, they got a commitment from the Republicans to call this thing a “compromise” rather than hooting about their total victory. The main thing the Dems got, however, is that they don’t have to stand up and actually fight for a principle, and that seems to be more valuable to the Democratic leadership these days than anything else. This was an issue where the Democrats actually had the moral high ground. The Republican majority was wrong to try to change the rules; especially the way they were going to do it. And according to all the polls, Americans didn’t want it to happen. But the Dems saw that Americans also thought all judicial nominees should get an up or down vote. Rather than taking on the task of standing up for a good principle and educating the American people on the fact that it has never been the case that all judicial nominees get an up or down vote, they caved in. The Dems were also correct in opposing these particular judges. Pryor is a tougher call, but from what I know of Brown’s and Owen’s records, neither of them has any business at all on the federal bench.

Yet the Democrats caved utterly. This “compromise” is an unmitigated disaster. It is no compromise at all, but an unconditional surrender. Once again, the Democratic Party has failed the country. But, hey, at least they don’t have to stand up for that, either, since the Republicans have agreed to let them off the hook by calling this a “compromise.”

Days like this are why I am not a Democrat.

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4 Responses to “If You’re Being Run Out of Town, Get Out Front and Try to Make It Look Like a Parade”

  1. Cody Harrod Says:

    Yep, the Demos are in trouble. Not that it breaks my heart or anything.

  2. Joe Longhorn Says:

    Juvenal,
    There are plenty of right-wingers that are just as unhappy about this “compromise” as you are. I don’t happen to be one of them.

    Here’s an excerpt from Andrew McCarthy over at National Review Online:

    “President Bush is obviously not going to consult with Democrats before making nominations — certainly not in the sense of giving them a meaningful role in choosing nominees. But since Democrats have now gotten Republicans to sign on to this contra-constitutional “consultation” provision, they will have a demonstrative leg up in arguing that they are fully justified in filibustering any nominee on whom they were not consulted. After all, they will argue, the president will have violated the Constitution since even Republicans have expressly conceded that its “advice” requirement calls for consultation with Democrats. (Can you not already envision Senator Reid or Senator Leahy waving the agreement in the air while a thoughtful Katie Couric nods solemnly? Can you not already read the editorials and op-eds citing this agreement in the New York Times and the Washington Post?)

    The Republican signatories (echoing some of the wishful-thinking commentary about the agreement) can blather all they want about how the deal permits them to go back to pressing for the rule-change if the Democrats filibuster. But bet on it: the Democrats, with all the steely discipline they have exhibited time and again, will counter that a president’s failure to consult, in violation of the constitution, is most certainly an “extraordinary circumstance,” triggering a filibuster. Having agreed in writing that the president has such a constitutional obligation, the GOP signatories (who, of course, don’t want to challenge the filibuster rule anyway) will be hard-put to object.

    So, the agreement strikes a deal that was properly rejected as unacceptable only a few days ago. Risibly couched in the rhetoric of “compromise,” it freezes in place an outcome in which 70 percent of the ten nominees at issue have been defeated. To the extent it says anything of immediate consequence, it is unenforceable. And to the extent it says something definitive, it is wrong and it lays important groundwork for future filibustering. Some victory.”

    Since we’ve got the far left and the far right both complaining, it must be a pretty decent compromise.

  3. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Well, I would say that those like McCarthy on the right who wanted to invent some sort of constitutional right to a vote by the full Senate were going to be disappointed no matter what the outcome. Even the nuclear option wouldn’t have created that.

    It’s a bit comical to watch those folks complain that the judicial branch invented the right to privacy, then turn around and, in the same breath, invent a right to a vote on behalf of judicial nominees. Apparently, judicial activism is in the eye of the beholder.

    Also, many on the right are angry about this deal simply because they think they’re entitled to everything. As I’ve noted before, America is not a pure democracy, and being in the majority doesn’t mean one has dictatorial powers. Those folks are just going to have to learn to live with that.

    The problem with the deal, from my side of the line, is that it seems perfectly reasonable for the conservatives to get only 95% of the judges they want. The Dems weren’t being unreasonable here. And they had principle on their side. Yet still they caved.

  4. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Apparently, Frist is already thumbing his nose at the deal by filing for cloture on Myers.

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