Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tragic Comity

Folks, the Indigent Blogger is here to cut through the smoke and mirrors of this so-called Agreement (pdf) signed yesterday afternoon by fourteen Senators (hat tip: RealClearPolitics). This Agreement highlights a few very important things to keep in mind while discussing all of this.


  1. Senator Frist never had the 50 votes required for the rule change. The seven Republican senators that signed this agreement have commited to opposing any change in the rules regarding judicial filibusters.


  2. Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen aren't the judicial activists far outside the mainstream as some Democrats claimed.


  3. Any of these centrist Senators would make a terrible President.

My analysis says this is a loss for Bill Frist, a bigger loss for Harry Reid, and a small victory for President Bush. Of course, as I pointed out, Senator Bill Frist's cover is blown and he can no longer bluff about having the votes to change Senate rules.

Rules Changes. In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th Congress which we understand to be any amendment to or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than a unanimous consent or Rule XXII. - Memorandum of Understanding on Judicial Nominations

Personally, I believe the Constitution grants the power of appointments to the Executive Branch and the Senate usurped that authority for itself by making its own rules which permitted the Senate to thwart a Presidential nomination by any means other than a full vote. Senator Harry Reid loses because he now has seven members of his own party that will side with the Republicans for cloture on three specific nominees, giving the GOP enough votes to override any intention of a filibuster. This also belies the reasons stated for opposing these judges by Democrat leadership.

"As long as the administration continues to do this [nominate "conservative ideologues"], we will continue to block judges who are outside the mainstream." - Senator Charles Shumer (D-NY)

"If there was ever a judge who would substitute her own views for the law, it is Judge Owen. Her record is a paper trail of case after case where she thinks she knows better than 100 years of legal tradition and clear legislative intent. There is no question that when you look up 'judicial activist' in the dictionary, you see a picture of Priscilla Owen." - Senator Charles Shumer (D-NY)

"Unfortunately, the White House's recent nominees to the D.C. Circuit appear to continue a disturbing pattern of nominating judges who are extreme." - Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)

"one of the most unapologetically ideological nominees of either party in many years," - The Washington Post

Of course, I never believed any of these statements, especially after doing a little research on the nominees, but it is clear that seven centrist Democrat Senators have just thrown a pie in the faces of the minority leadership. In contrast to all of this, President Bush will get votes on three of his nominees (Brown, Owen, Pryor) that are likely to be confirmed, but he is not guaranteed up-or-down votes on the other two nominees (Myers, Saad), one of whom (if not both) was likely to be rejected by a full senate vote in any case.

Votes for Certain Nominees. We will vote to invoke cloture on the following judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit), William Pryor (11th Circuit), and Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit).

Status of Other Nominees. Signatories make no commitment to vote for or against cloture on the following judicial nominees: William Myers (9th Circuit) and Henry Saad (6th Circuit).

So, this Agreement allows President Bush to get three of his most popular nominees confirmed. It forces Bill Frist to back away from changing the Senate Rules for now, but does not prohibit him from proposing a change to the rules in the future. Finally, it embarrasses the Democrat Senators who were tasked with justifying the use of a filibuster for these nominees while maintaining the filibuster as an option under extraordinary circumstances. I'm sure extraordinary circumstances will be any nominee for the Supreme Court, but I have no idea what else could be included or excluded by such vague language.

UPDATE 7:41 AM: McQ has a good round-up of the filibuster agreement at QandO Blog if you're interested in reading more on the subject. There really isn't that much to the Agreement as it is just a temporary patch to a problem I'm sure we will be revisiting soon.

1 Comments:

Blogger Mike said...

This agreement has John McCain's stink all over it. He's still bitter about the 2000 primaries so this was his chance to stick it to Bush one more time. Of course, I guess opposing Bush's tax cuts, being critical of the war, and refusing to back the Presidents plans on Medicare and Social Security weren't enough. Now we have this.
But it was also an attempt to derail Frist's presidential hopes. If Frist would have pulled off the "nuclear option" he would have been the darling of the base and the frontrunner for the 2008 nomination. Jonny Boy couldn't allow that to happen.
But McCain is mistaken if he thinks he has a chance to win the nomination. He'll never get the support of the base after repeatedly giving it the finger like he has. I bet after the base rejects him his ego will push him into running as a third party once again sabotaging the republicans and paving the way for Hillary in 2008. Isn't it funny how the Clinton's alway get the benefit of the third parties (Ross Perot)? Yet the media won't give Ralph Nader the time of day when he runs.

5:42 AM  

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