Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Nuclear Confusion

There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what actually happened yesterday and what it means. It's fine that a lot of people on the left don't like the compromise - I'll admit when I first heard about it, I thought it sounded shitty. But when I actually looked at the deal, I realized why it's a big win for the Democrats, and even more crucially, a big shitburger for the Republicans to eat.

We are certainly all entitled to our opinions about the value of the compromise. But we should all be able to agree on the basic facts of the deal. Here they are:

The reason there were originally 12 Senators involved is because the Magic Number for the Democrats in this deal was 6. That's the number of Republicans they needed to pick off in order to prevent a 50-50 tie (with Cheney the tiebreaker) on the Nuclear Option. The final two were added, presumably, because there was one extra guy in each party that just really wanted in for his own reasons.

The Republicans needed 5 Democrats to break cloture on the stalled nominees. So with 7 Republicans agreeing not to Nuke the Filibuster, and 7 Democrats agreeing to break cloture on the three nominees covered by the agreement, these 14 Senators now control, for practical purposes, what happens with all future Bush judicial nominees.

Let's look at what happens with the next Bush nomination. There are basically three possibilities.

Possibility 1 - The 7 Democrats decide together that the nominee is not extraordinarily bad. Thus according to the agreement they will sign a cloture petition if the Dem leadership decides to filibuster. Crisis averted.

Possibility 2 - At least 3 of the 7 Democrats decide together that the nominee IS extraordinarily bad, and worth filibustering. Thus they will join a Democratic filibuster and not sign a cloture petition. So the Dems notify the 7 Republicans of this, and the 7 Republicans meet to decide whether, in their view, this constitutes an abuse of the filibuster. They decide it doesn't, and that they will vote against the nuclear option (at least six of the seven have to agree to this.) Crisis averted.

Possibility 3 - The 7 Democrats join a filibuster, and the 7 Republicans decide to vote for the nuclear option.

So you can see now that if Frist wants to bring about the Nuclear Option Showdown, he needs to find a nominee who is bad enough that the 7 Dems will filibuster, but not so bad that the 7 Republicans will vote against going Nuclear.

You'll notice I didn't mention the deal itself, with three judges getting through and two (really seven, since five have already gone down to Dem filibusters) getting deep-sixed. That's because that aspect of the deal is so minor it's hardly worth talking about.

Those on the left dissatisfied with the deal seem to be focusing on two things - the three judges who got through, and the question of "who decides" what constitutes an extraordinary circumstance.

On the first point, folks are welcome to their opinion that these particular three judges pose a big enough threat to the republic that they shouldn't have been let through. On the second, people just don't seem to understand the nature of the deal. The 7 Democrats on the compromise committee decide. Period.


Uncle said...

"On the second, people just don't seem to understand the nature of the deal. The 7 Democrats on the compromise committee decide. Period."

Actually, the 6 republicans decide, period. Them dems can do anything they want, but the GOP still hold the cards. And actually, only 1 of the republicans decides since of course without all 6, Frist is in control again. The 6 republicans aren't required by the agreement to act in unison, therefor a single republican can decide that the agreement has been broken and Frist is back in control.
There is only one scenario in which this agreement has any meaning, and that is where the dems decide to use the filibuster and the GOP moderates, all 6 of them, agree.
This agreement gives a free hand to Bush. He merely has to keep sending up the most objectionable candidates he can find and ultimately the dems HAVE to let them through or the GOP moderates will flip the switch.

Adam P. Short said...

If that's the case, why did this compromise happen at all? If Bush sends up another hard-right nominee, the mods are going to defect on the nuclear option.

If they aren't going to do that, there was no point to doing this.

What you and the rest of the left-wing blogosphere are not seeing is that the situation as you describe it is exactly how things were before this compromise.

The GOP moderates worked out this deal for a reason. They're saying to Frist, Bush and the rest of the Dobsonites "take it easy. We can only swallow so much."

Of course, there's no point in arguing about it, since we'll find out soon enough.

uncle said...

"The GOP moderates worked out this deal for a reason."

Yup. Because they use judicial nominations for all the same reasons the dems do. It's a horse trade situation and they didn't wanna lose their ability to horse trade. Moderates, and really all the horse traders, rely upon getting votes from across the aisle and to get those, they need to give something. And being able to support filibusters, quitely, is a real easy way to do this. When Senator A is trying to protect his military base from the closure commission, Senator B's support can be "bought" by not opposing his hold on a judicial nominee. There are more senators than the gang of 12 that want to keep this bit of horse trading. It's how the 6 republicans were able to make the deal in the Frist

Adam P. Short said...

OK, well that explains it. That's the part, to me, that's completely implausible.

If the plan is really for the White House/DoD to cave on military bases (etc.) for any Senator who agrees to OK their filibuster power-grab, the GOP is more out of touch than I thought.

That would be the dumbest move in the history of politics. A lot dumber than just exploding the Nuke this week.

I say again, if this is the plan, Karl, bring it on,

Uncle said...

If you think Rove has much to do with the Gang of 12 you are sadly mistaken. But by the by, did ya hear that Thune voted against the Bolton nomination? Official explanation is that he doesn't like the guy. Unofficial explanation is that he is pissed because they are going to close the one major military installation in his state. Thune is the guy that replaced Daschel.

Adam P. Short said...

What I'm not getting a sense of is whether you do or don't think that this "compromise" is in fact a significant setback for Frist and the GOP.

I thought at first you were taking the basic "Dems caved" perspective, but you seem to see in later comments that the GOP leadership is on the outside looking in here.