Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Frist vs. Reid

According to Confirm Them, Senator Reid has rejected the filibuster compromise proffered by Senator Frist. Here’s Reid:

"I would say for lack of a better description it’s a big, wet kiss to the far right, ladies and gentlemen. It’s just not appropriate," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (search), who called it a "slow-motion nuclear option."

This is a classless response to a reasonable proposal. Let’s hope Frist and the Republicans succeed in capturing the high ground here.

Discussions - 21 Comments

"classless response"
you asshole, why don’t we keep changing the rules so your ultra right wing pals get their way all the time. How about changing the rules for the ethics committee? Oh yeah they tried that, didn’t work.

you are a jerk

Any deal in which the Democrats’ end of the bargain is to promise that they will do something in the future, or promise they won’t do something, is utterly worthless. It’s a dishonorable party which cannot be trusted to keep its word. NO DEALS with Reid and his gang. GO NUCLEAR!!!!!!!

Nice language HR - thanks for showing us what class is.

I agree wm, I’m sorry that hr felt the need to phrase his comments as he did. But I wonder, can’t we really reach a compromise here? The Dems offered votes on four or five of the nominees in exchange for the withdrawal of a couple of them, and Frist shot it down. This that he offered today isn’t a compromise, it’s just a different way of getting what he and the "Justice Sunday" crowd want. What’s wrong with an actual compromise in this case?

- Charging RINO

Well, conservatives won the White House, the Congress, and the Senate. As a result, they get to pick the judges. Senate rules are subject to the up or down vote of the majority, so the majority gets to change the rules just like the majority gets to pick the judges. You do not have to compromise when you have the votes to win; that is how large majorities work.

If the Democrats want to compromise, I would suggest they moderate their agenda so they can hold more seats in the Senate and make confirming judges they dislike more difficult. The Republicans are not under any obligation to compromise with a minority party whose shrillness keeps losing them governorships, legislatures, congressmen, and senators. In fact, it is pretty clear, judging by results in places like Ohio, that Republicans keep getting re-elected precisely so they won’t compromise away conservative court appointments and other matters pertaining especially to social issues. Republicans have a duty to vote as they campaigned, and not demonstrate a chronic lack of spine (latin term: Ohious Senatus delagationis, common names Voinovich Syndrome, Dewine’s Disease).

Republicans certainly should not compromise on Janice Rogers Brown and Miguel Estrada. Democrats oppose these judges not on the merits - those arguments are laughable - but on the basis of race. That way come election year the D’s can once again have the opportunity to call the Republicans racist for not having enough minority appointments, and run adds blaming the Republican candidate for lynchings (see 2000 NAACP ads vs Bush).

You seem to believe that compromise is an inherent good. A willingness to compromise is a democratic virtue; a first recourse to compromise even when you are winning is just gutlessness.

wm, I would really like to see some factual basis for your assertion that those who oppose Janice Rogers Brown and Miguel Estrada do so on the basis of race. If you think there’s a case to be made for that argument, please make it - throwing out charges without backing them up doesn’t move the discussion along at all.

Republicans aren’t always going to be in the majority, and doing something short-sighted like removing this parliamentary arrow from our quiver could really turn into quite a Pyrrhic victory down the road. It’s not gutlessness, it’s thinking beyond the moment. Winning now is losing later.

- Charging RINO

With regard to Estrada, the Wall Street Journal published memos from Dick Durbin’s and Ted Kennedy’s offices specifically saying it was because of race. This is no secret.

I would add to that, in politics you do not lose today so you can win tommorrow.

I would direct both wm (nice to blog with you again!) and RINO to this piece by Bob Dole:

But let’s be honest: By creating a new threshold for the confirmation of judicial nominees, the Democratic minority has abandoned the tradition of mutual self-restraint that has long allowed the Senate to function as an institution...

Now, I can’t say I agree when Dole says, "...but Frist will be fully justified in doing so if he believes he has exhausted every effort at compromise. Of course, there is an easier solution to the impasse: Democrats can stop playing their obstruction game and let Bush’s judicial nominees receive what they are entitled to: an up-or-down vote on the floor of the world’s greatest deliberative body."

Here I think that Dole misses the mark that up-or-down voting does not protect the minority holders in the Congress. I think it is a tough sell to get all nominees to go through. Heck, I can’t say that many of them should be in. It’s this kind of head-butting that can’t continue if there is to be a future for bipartisanship in Congress. For the minority (48% of America is still far from a true landslide up or down mandated voting style) there need to be the protections of the filibuster. This is where I think that true compromise comes in. I can’t believe that where Dems have conceeded a few nominees, the Conservatives are still holding their ground so hard. I can’t understand why there can’t be compromise, and right now I’m not sure why Conservatives are digging in so hard about all the nominees getting passed.

The right controls the White House, the House and Senate. Because judicial nominees are nominees, there needs to be a protection in the legal system for the 48% minority. Why can’t there be a compromise of a few nominees in, and a few out? What makes this so hard to chew on? Didn’t America show how they wanted to be represented? 48-51? Why not allow there to be 2/3 of the judges passed, and 1/3 asked to try again later? Just floating ideas. I’m not aiming to be inflamatory, and I hope responses can be the same here, folks.

Except this, which will go over like a lead baloon, but I think needs to be said: David Frisk, ...It’s a dishonorable party... about the Democrats? I recall a dishonest report, not fully researched, that led us into war in Iraq. There are no WMDs, and we were told that, without a doubt, there were WMDs in Iraq. I’m not convinced that this can be a lesson that politics needs to be overhauled to root out dishonesty and bickering. It gets us nowhere!

Good point Ohio Voter. And since Dems are taking the historically unprecedented step of filibustering judges like Brown and Estrada (although the latter nominee has unfortunately been withdrawn), the onus should be on them to prove why these nominees not only do not merit a senator’s aye vote, but in fact are so horribly extreme as to not deserve a vote at all. So far, the Dems’ "arguments" as to all these nominees are simply conclusions ("We’re only filibustering right-wing extremists!"),which are dutifully parroted by left-wing hacks and newspaper editorial boards (and yes, there’s a lot of overlap there).

The reason that Dingy Harry is unwilling to accept Frist’s offer of a guaranteed 100 hours of debate on each nominee is precisely because Reid knows that the Dems are unable to make a substantive case that these nominees are outside of the American mainstream. If he could, there are enough RINO’s to scuttle these nominations. Yet when these nominees ultimately come to a vote, I’m confident that all of them will receive all or most of the votes of RINO’s Snowe, Collins, Chafee, Specter, Hagel, and McCain--a pretty good sign that they are not out of the mainstream.

The Dems have lost a net of something like 50 house seats and 12 Senate seats in the past decade, and they’ve lost the past three elections by increasing margins. Where do they get the hubris to keep telling us that we’re the ones who are out of the mainstream?

There may be some intuitive merit to compromise arguments, such as the one mentioned by Joel Vos, but we should at least make clear that whatever you think of the attractiveness of such propositions, that’s not the way we’ve been doing it for two hundred years. We’ve had plenty of close elections in our history (even in the biggest landslides, 4 in 10 people vote for the other guy), yet the winner always gets 100% of the power to appoint nominees. Now it’s true that often the composition of the Senate has caused a president to choose a more "moderate" nominee, but until now this act has always been done to achieve 50, not 60 votes. There is simply no historical precedent for a president having to compromise to get 60 votes for court nominees.

And this dovetails into another of the Democrats’ red herrings in the filibuster debate. They immediately resort to the complaint that some of Clinton’s judges were blocked too. That’s true, and the Dems could make some good cases that this was inappropriate at times. But at least these acts were done by a majority-Republican Congress that Americans had almost certainly elected in the 1994 midterms to be a check on Clinton administration. Today we have a Senate that the voters made more Republican in 2002 and 2004 as an affirmation of the Bush administration, and in which the Republicans are a clear majority. Furthermore, if we really want an apt comparison to the situation we’re faced with now, we must look to Clinton’s first two years, or Carter’s term, when we had a Democrat president with a Republican minority in the Senate (Carter won a virtual tie election and Clinton won by 5%, so each could only be said to represent 50-55% of the country under Joel Vos’s logic). And yet during these times, when Republicans could say, like the Dems are trying to do today, that they had no other tool to protect the minority short of a judicial filibuster, they still never filibustered a judge. Any judge that the Democrat majority brought to the floor got a vote. In other words, there is absolutely no historical precedent for what we’re seeing today from the Dems.

wm is absolutely correct: compromise is not an inherent good, especially if it involves sacrificing principles that you strongly believe in. Does anyone think it would have been good for the North to accept a compromise where the South freed half the slaves, or only half the southern states seceded, in order to avoid the Civil War (the nuclear option of the 1860’s)? The point is, some principles are worth fighting for--some even dying for. Many people (I think a majority) believe in the principles the Republicans are fighting for here: an up or down vote on these judges, but more fundamentally, the values and judicial philosophies that these judges represent. Others do not share these principles, and in fact have equally strong feelings that run in the opposite direction. But neither side should stop fighting for their principles if they truly believe in them. I strongly believe that Bush’s judicial nominees should get their vote (because I agree with the judges’ philosophies, and because I think we should stick to the tradition that a majority of the Senate can confirm judges). Therefore, I think that Republicans, if they truly believe in these judges like they say they do, should be willing to do everything in their power to fight for those principles. In the end, it is up to the American people to decide whose principles get to govern us, and if they end up disagreeing with Republicans’ exercise of principle, they will return the Dems to power. C’est la vie; that’s how it’s supposed to work. But if we’re not willing to fight for what we believe in, then why in the world did we fight so hard to get into power in the first place?

If this fight were about the current nominees, the majority could have their up or down vote simply by convincing any 5 of the 45 minority senators to change their vote on cloture. These five wouldn’t have to vote for the nominee, just to end debate. Surely there’s enough pork in the budget to buy those five somewhere! But Frist and BushCo won’t do that, and they don’t care about the 10 re-submitted nominees. That’s why they resumitted them anyway -- why waste a nominee you really want on a sham action to undo a historical check? They only want to pack the Supreme Court. This was wrong when FDR tried it, and it is wrong today.

The old political culture in which Senate civility and deliberation were real things is dead and gone. The parties -- or more accurately, the Democrats, and the Republicans more than they used to be -- are ideologically homogeneous. In addition, the mean-spiritedness and arrogance of the liberals (the Democrats) has never been greater. While the filibuster had a place in another era, we live in a new era in which one faction -- the left -- has more power than it has ever had, and is using it more ruthlessly. The other faction, whether one considers it a majority or a minority of the population, has only the White House and Congress, which in the vast scheme of social/political power, is merely the icing on the cake. The conservatives are attempting to use this power while they have it, which may be only a few years. Given that the left controls most other levers of power in this society, the right is completely justified in getting as much as it can from the Republicans’ temporary control of Congress. Bush simply wants to appoint judges who will allow legislatures and political communities to function democratically. The Democrats do not want such judges, and fight the ones who promise to be the strongest and most outspoken advocates of this judicial restraint. If we believe that the "men in black" are threatening to destroy American democracy, there is absolutely nothing more important than getting more judicial conservatives onto that bench. In comparison with the vital importance of this goal, the violation of a dead-and-gone tradition of Senate "restraint" is peanuts.

It is a huge mistake for conservatives to let themselves get trapped into learned discussions of the constitutional aspects of the Senate.
The Constitution simply says each house of Congress gets to make its own rules. The Republicans are simply proposing to follow that -- to change the rules in the interest of democracy. It’s as damned simple as that.

Now just a darn minute there.

Reagan, 8 years. Bush, Sr. 4 years. Clinton 8 years, but 63 judges blocked. Bush, jr, 205 already approved and seated.

The Republican presidents nominated, and the Senate confirmed, almost the entire Federal judiciary over the last 25 years.

This is about packing the Supreme Court. If a Democratic majority were trying to do this to a Republican minority, the howling would be deafening.

The democrats are insisting on minority veto power. They just don’t understand the system. Shut off the air conditioning in their offices until they get real.

OhPlease...tough tacos. The Republicans have won these electoral battles fair and them go the spoils. That’s the system, and you either live by it or you revolt.

Ohplease...I apologize for the bluntness, but you’re betraying a stupidity that deserves it. Your "argument" makes no distinction between majorities refusing nominees and minorities doing so--between 51 senators rejecting them and 40. The people elected a Republican Senate in response to Clinton; thus, it was incumbent upon him to appoint nominees acceptable to a majority of that Senate. Just because Bush has succeeded in winning a majority of the Senate does not mean his reward should suddenly be the unprecedented obstacle of having to garner 60 votes to get a damn judge confirmed.

Moreover, you make an implicit argument that really tweeks me: the idea that there’s some constitutional or other right for the two major parties to have roughly equal representation on the bench. Sorry, but the system set up by the Founders clearly contemplates that if one party wins a disproportionate amount of presidential elections over time, that party will appoint most of the judges. By the end of Bush’s second term, the Republicans will have held the White House for 28 of the last 40 years. Read’em and weep. Thus, it is entirely reasonable and proper that they have appointed the vast majority of judges during that time. That they keep winning elections is certainly not a valid justification for denying them the spoils of those victories. If you really think that you and your ilk are correct in your views, then try winning a damn election for once. Do that, and maybe you can actually exercise power rather than whining and concocting history to preserve a judicial status quo that the voters don’t want to keep.

Ohplease...furthermore, your argument about this debate not being over circuit court nominees, but future Supreme Court ones is a bit strange. The circuit court nominees are actually much more important than you (and many people) think: they decide the vast majority of cases each year without Supreme Court review. Moreover, if the Dems really didn’t care about these circuit court nominees, then it seems very stupid for them to waste their ammo filibustering them, because if the Dems force the GOP to use procedural tactics to overcome the judicial filibusters of circuit court nominees (as looks to be the case now), then the precedent will be set, and the GOP can more easily do it for a Supreme Court nominee. In other words, if the Dems only cared about the Supreme Court, they’d hold their filibuster fire until then, rather than use it now with no justification and essentially force the GOP to shoot down the idea from here on out. Once again, the Dems are displaying their fundamental political ineptitude for all the world to see...

One aspect of the Democratic death-by-filibuster campaign against Bush’s judicial nominees that should be highlighted is the degree of Democrat thralldom to the abortion-on-demand lobby and Hollywood that it reveals.

After Gore finally gave up his coup attempt in Dec 2000, the Dem senators held a retreat w/ Larry Tribe, Stanley Greenberg, and other advisor types who told the senators that it would be politically safe for them to follow the dictates of the party’s most culturally leftward interest groups by resorting to unprecedented obstructionist tactics to block Bush judges. The median voter, the senators were told, didn’t really care about arcane matters like judicial nominations, so there would be no price to pay at the polls for scorched-earth methods aimed at keeping W’s judges off the bench.

Of course this was ludicrously bad political advice. Bush made the Democrats pay for blocking nominees in 2002, and he made them pay again in 2004. It’s entirely likely he will make them pay in 2006 as well, given the number of "red-state" Democratic senators whose seats will be in play next fall.

But the Senate Democrats (spearheaded by the intensely ideological and partisan members and staffers on the Judiciary Committee) have stuck lemming-like to their obstructionist course despite the seats it has cost them. This is an eloquent testimony to the clout that the abortion-on-demand lobby (where most of the energy comes from on judge nominations) and its pals like all those big Hollywood donors wield in today’s Democratic Party. They are determined to drive the party down to 40 Senators if that’s what it takes to stop Bush and his Senate majority from naming judges (as the people elected Bush to do), and the Democratic Party is just going along for the whole kamikaze ride. Amazing.

But hey, given that the Dems seem so determined to wind up with an ever-shrinking Senate delegation, who are the Republicans to try and stop them?

Keying on Stuart’s point above, the reality is that, at the conclusion of Bush’s term, the Republicans will have held the Presidency for 20 of the last 28 years. The notion that this should NOT be reflecting in judicial dominacy is ludicrous...certainly if the roles were reversed the Demcrats wouldn’t tolerate anything but total hegemony.

So again, OhPlease, suck it up. Be a grownup for a change.

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