Wednesday, July 21, 2004

It's about time -- judicial nominees version

I'll believe it when it happens, but Senate majority leader Bill Frist says he is ready to back a rules change (which needs only 51 votes) that will prevent filibusters of judicial nominations. This was first proposed two years ago, but the Republicans have picked their collective [censored] since.

Here's how it works. Senate rules allow filibusters. Filibusters can be broken by 60 members voting for cloture -- an end to "debate." In reality, there is unlimited debate even if the debate isn't ACTUALLY occurring. Thus, all that a senator has to do is say "I'm filibustering ____" and the Senate would then need to gather 60 votes to rule for cloture. Ending the filibuster brings the item (bill, nomination, treaty, etc.) to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote.

The Democrats have used the filibuster and cloture rules to prevent votes on judicial nominations. This is patently unconstitutional. The advice-and-consent clause of the Constitution does not require a supermajority vote of more than 50 Senators to approve executive-branch nominations. Only the Senate's internal rules require that. This is an infringement on executive power and violates the separation of powers system set up in the Constitution.

If Frist gets the rule change, the Dems say they will fight everything and there will be no bipartisanship in the Senate. BFD. The Democrats have ruined any notion of "bipartisanship" during the tenure of the most ham-handedly partisan Democratic leader in modern times, South Dakota pipsqueak Tom Daschle. Go nuclear Democrats, then watch Pres. Bush use the bully pulpit to pound you into oblivion, just as Clinton did to Gingrich in 1996.

What about what Republicans did to Democratic judicial nominations?

Let's look at the record that Dems continually point to:

1. Filibustering the nomination of Abe Fortas for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court -- back in 1968, the filibuster could be broken by a regular majority of 51 votes, not 60; furthermore, Fortas was filibustered by Democrats, not Republicans, and the Democrats had more than 60 Senators in their majority so they had actual control of the Senate if they so chose.

2. Voting down Ronnie White -- the Missouri Supreme Court Justice was disapproved of by John Ashcroft, and with good reason -- go find some of White's more controversial opinions and read them (The Monk already has); they veer from incoherent to illogical to just plain senseless. But at least White got an up-or-down vote.

3. Not voting on Clinton appointees in late 2000. This is rubbish because the Democrats in the Senate prevented MORE George H.W. Bush appointees from getting floor votes in 1992, AND more Reagan appointees from getting floor votes in 1988 (in the hopes of a Dukakis win) than the Republicans prevented Clinton nominees from getting voted on in 2000.

So it has been time to go nuclear for more than two years. Never before have appellate and district court nominees been filibustered by the Senate. The Republicans must be tough for once and actually get something done. Otherwise, there's no value in having them in charge.

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