Thursday, May 19, 2005

Politics: Judicial Filibuster Craziness

Here I go again, deviating from my usual themes of swordsmanship, dance, medieval industry, and computer gaming craziness to delve into the sordid depths of American politics.

My US Senator is in the middle of it. I live in Tennessee, so Frist is supposedly looking out for my interests. Unfortunately, he only seems to be looking after his own Presidential ambitions. He’s embracing the Religious Right with every thing he’s got, thinking that they will put him in the White House in 2008.

Which brings us to the controversy over President Bush’s nominees for federal appeals court vacancies. As I recall, he nominated a couple of hundred judges during his last term, and about ten of them were blocked by filibusters in the Senate. Unwilling to be denied, Dubya has started nominating those same candidates again, and the Democrats are promising to block them again. This situation brings us to Frist, who’s promising to change the Senates rules to make it impossible to filibuster a judicial nominee.

I don’t suppose he’s considered what the courts would look like today if the rule he’s proposing had been in place during the Clinton Presidency. The Republicans used the filibuster more than once themselves when Clinton nominated someone that they considered "too far left" to get a lifetime appointment to a federal appeals court, but apparently it becomes "un-American" when the Democrats use it to block someone they think is "too far right".

I don’t know if the "nuclear option" of eliminating the filibuster on judicial nominees will actually happen. Several Senators, including John McCain (one of the few members of Congress that I like almost without reservation) are working on a compromise coalition to keep it from happening. Nonetheless, if the Republicans do make the change, they’ll come to regret it some day. The pendulum swings both ways, and sooner or later the Democrats will be in the majority again, and the Republicans will wish they had some way of blocking a "left-wing activist" nominee from some socially liberal President.

Look before you leap, Frist, or the beast on the end of the party line will come around and bite you.

1 comment:

Lord Runolfr said...

I must correct myself. From my research, it appears that the Republicans attempted to block Clinton judicial nominees on at least six occasions, but every one of Clinton's candidates mustered 60 votes to break the filibuster, despite the thin Democratic majority in the Senate.

The Democratic success in filibustering Dubya's judicial nominees is unprecedented, but the effort certainly isn't. What we learn is that Clinton's nominees were sufficiently centrist to get enough Republican votes to break a filibuster.

What's wrong with Dubya's candidates, then?