Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Nuclear War in US Senate Averted---For Now

As I'm sure you've already heard, a last-minute compromise between Democrats and Republicans resulted in a de-escalation of the threat of the "nuclear option" that would change the rules so that filibusters cannot be used to block judicial nominees.

According to the compromise, the Democrats agree to allow votes to proceed on three nominees, Priscilla Owen, William Pryor, and Janice Rogers Brown. In return the Republicans agree not to invoke the "nuclear option".

Although many Democrats view this compromise as a victory (including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid) and many conservatives view it as a defeat (James Dobson, for example, considers it a betrayal by the Republican moderates), I have a hard time understanding what the Democrats got out of the deal. The whole point of filibustering nominees is to prevent the worst of them from getting appointed. If the Democrats are not going to use the filibuster against terrible candidates like Owen, Brown and Pryor, then what's the point of preserving the right to filibuster?

Presumably, this agreement leaves the Democrats able to filibuster in a more serious future approval battle, such as a nomination to the Supreme Court. However, I don't see how there is any guarantee that the Republicans won't go back on their deal and invoke the nuclear option then.

The best way of looking at it that I can see is that the compromise deal shows that at least some Republicans are willing to stand up to the bullying of sanctimonious religious conservatives like James Dobson.


Blogger Kyle McCullough said...

At first, I thought the Democrats got rolled--again. But now I am not so sure. I suspect that the Republican 'moderates' were ready to vote with Frist if the Dems refused the deal. That would have been bad; all the nominees would have been approved and there would not even be a fight over the next ones--just a quick confirmation.

And the Democrats got some important concessions. The deal alows filibusters only 'in exteme circumstances,' but it explicitly leaves it to the Senators own conscience to say when that is. In order for McCain, say, to break the deal, he has to assert that the Democrats don't really find a nominee extreme. I don't think he could do that without looking like a big a weasel.

Most importantly, this deal insures that there will actually be a fight over Bush's Supreme Court appointments. If Frist had gotten his way, there would have been none.

9:35 PM  

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