Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Filibuster "Compromise"

There is much relief on the Democratic side and much consternation on the Republican side today after Republican moderates reached a deal with Democrats on two really terrible judges and another sort of medium-terrible one. The other four judges go down.

From a certain point of view, this is a qualified win for the Dems. But taking a longer view, I'm not sure this agreement really has any significance at all. The Dems gave the GOP three judges and a couple of empty promises. Recall that the man theoretically bound by the agreement, Harry Reid, came out immediately after the deal was reached and said that the Democrats were still considering filibustering the very next controversial nominee who comes to the Senate floor, John Bolton.

Frist says in the same article that he thinks that from now on filibusters of Supreme Court nominees would be "almost impossible." However, in my reading the word "extraordinary" is used to imply that on the very most serious questions the Democrats reserve the right to filibuster. There is nothing more serious than an appointment to a lifetime post on the only unchecked body in the U.S. government.

And of course, though it's a little strange how few commentators have mentiontioned this, of course this has been about the Chief Justice all along. The idea was to pave the way for Rehnquist to retire and for some really terrible replacement to be appointed, and Scalia moved to Chief Justice. The smart money is on Ken Starr right now.

If Starr is nominated to the high court, the Dems will be forced to filibuster. And if the Republicans bring this issue to the fore any time after early this winter, they will transform what was almost the most gargantuan political mistake in American history into one of the biggest political mistakes in human history.

The crisis has not been averted. It has merely been put on hold because the Republicans got cold feet at the last minute.


Julie said...

Very scary stuff. More scary stuff in the article - George Allen for President in '08? And I wonder if he and Warner are going to duke it out at the next GOP function in Richmond. That would be a fun one.

Adam P. Short said...

Yeah, that's one of those things I just can't imagine. He's stupider than W. But who knows?

Uncle said...

Boulton isn't covered by the agreement, it was only for judicial appointments to the appeals and supreme courts.

And don't believe there aren't more hands in this than the gang of 12. Remember what Specter went through for some off hand remarks about reality. The 12 were allowed to do this because there were folks not on the list who supported their actions, potentially even the leadership. Lott's hands are all over this because he has a base closure commission issue to deal with. Other senators are pissed that the White House doesn't consult them on these appointments. All politics are local don't ya know.

Adam P. Short said...

You're right Bolton is not covered by the agreement, but it's significant that Reid mentioned this. It's also significant he and Frist are not parties to the agreement.

My point is merely that Reid's apparent PR strategy is to make it clear that he has no intention of abiding by the provisions of the agreement, and if Bill Frist doesn't like it he can go pound sand.

That attitude is going to lead, as it is designed to, to another showdown. The Democrats want that showdown to happen later rather than sooner. The GOP leadership would like to see it happen sooner, but the moderates have made it clear they aren't interested, and without their support, there's no showdown to be had.

So basically the Republicans got three bad judges through, and other than that they got to eat shit.

The big winners, somewhat ironically, are the GOP moderates, who now have some leverage in the party which they had lost after 2004. The big losers are the GOP leaders, with appeasement Dems buying themselves about six months to deal with their waning influence in the party.

All in all, score one for the good guys. And yes, Trent Lott was probably a factor in the deal, and he probably thinks it will help him fix the military base thing. But he's wrong. Trent's through.

RBP said...

Ken Starr? Did I miss something? Who says the smart money is on Ken Starr for the Supreme Court?

I know back in the days before Monica Lewinsky, and his turn at special prosecutor he was mentioned in right wing circles as a potential nominee, but not any more.

Ken Starr was the least popular figure at the end of the impeachment battle. His numbers went steadily down, while Clinton's went steadily up. He was exposed as a fraud and a common hack. And his jurisprudence was highly questionable. Just look at the referral Starr sent to Congress. "White water" is only mentioned 5 times and "sex" 47 times?
I've never heard Ken Starr's name brought up as a serious nominee since then, until now. But then, stranger things have happened.

As far as winners and losers today: I'd say the biggest winner has been Tom Delay, since his name has been out of the paper. And the Bush White House - I read today where nine of our soldiers have been killed in Iraq in the last 24 hours.

Traveller said...

Don't you think Bolton may in fact be a Republican sacrifice? I betcha he was in the agreement, whether we got the news or not.

Adam P. Short said...

You may be right, but if the GOP was planning to nominate someone popular, they wouldn't need to nuke the filibuster.

Uncle said...

Bolton was in the deal, military bases were in the deal, everything was in the deal. It was intended to keep the ball in play, not actually end anything. The dems to a great degree don't want this to go away. It's one of the better bargaining chips they've had in a while. The moderates (probably better described as the "anti-leadership" crowd) want the power that comes with brokering this deal. And those names included more than the gang of 12. It's all power politics and about the ability to be influential and only the leadership really cares about "winning" this particular fight. But Frist does seem prepared to bring this fight back sooner than later, and the hard left leaning dems want this fight to play out so they can start fundraising on it right now. (I'm already getting the mass mailings).