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Filibuster Showdown Averted - Everybody Wins, Nobody Wins

The filibuster showdown appears to have been averted, for now...

WASHINGTON (AP) - In a dramatic reach across party lines, Senate centrists sealed a compromise Monday night that cleared the way for confirmation of many of President Bush's stalled judicial nominees, left others in limbo and preserved venerable filibuster rules.

Under the terms, Democrats agreed to allow final confirmation votes for Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor, appeals court nominees they have long blocked. There is "no commitment to vote for or against" the filibuster against two other conservatives named to the appeals court, Henry Saad and William Myers.

The agreement said future judicial nominees should "only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances," with each senator - presumably the Democrats - holding the discretion to decide when those conditions had been met.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., called the agreement "legislative castor oil. It averts the showdown vote tomorrow, but I doubt it's over," he said.

Dorgan's right; the issue most certainly has not been completely resolved. As one news report put it, "they've done what the Senate does best, kicked the can down the road"... I expect the deal will fall apart when Democrats label the first Bush Supreme Court nominee an extraordinary circumstance...

Update: I'm still looking for a written version of the agreement. So far there's been a lot of self congratulatory quotes from all manner of Senators, but no definitive wording of the agreement. Judging by early quotes there's a lot that was left unwritten, presumably subject to the proverbial 'gentleman's agreement.' Whether the 14 Senators can hold firm to their commitment not to use the filibuster and to keep the nuclear (constitutional) option off the table remains to be seen.

Update 2: Scared Monkeys sends along the compromise agreement [PDF - 145K], and has an extensive round-up of reactions.


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Comments (24)

Afraid not. The Republican... (Below threshold)

Afraid not. The Republicans had one chance to get this right. From now on they've implicitly said that filibusters of judicial nominees are legitimate.

This was a rout, and the good guys lost.

There will be no rematch.

The Stupid Party once again... (Below threshold)
fatman:

The Stupid Party once again confirms that it comes by the name honestly.

As for Frist, he's toast. Even if he were running for re-election in '06, he'd lose. And forget about the Presidency.

A few things to remember:</... (Below threshold)
Ken:

A few things to remember:

This is not an official deal made by the cauci, but a side agreement by mainly self serving showboats. I think it is at first a piece of crap, but upon further review, these 14 have taken themselves out.

There is a trade: "no filibuster unless extraordinary conditions" in exchange for "no change in the rule". Remember that the opposition talked about how extreme the three are that are now going to get a vote without fillibuster. How do they declare an extraordinary condition in the future? If they abuse that, then the agreement to not change the rule is off.

You could almost say some were clever to build it so it would keep falling apart and force the Democrats to keep backing off time after time. However, it was not clever for Republicans, because it deprived the Republicans of a clear cut lasting victory on this issue.

I had actually expected the Democrats to back down and allow every cloture vote to pass so they would not take the defeat on the rules change.

This agreement was pretty clever for the Democrats because they had no way to look reasonable in opposing these first three nominees. They did this to get the first three out of the way so they can resume the filibuster strategy on some judges that might have some issues that would at least give the Democrats some "plausible deniability".

Democrats "win" this round by gaining a temporary improvement in their weak position, and establishing that 7 Republicans think filibusters on confirmations are OK in some cases.

We win because the 14 schemers have put themselves on the record.

Does anyone think it would ... (Below threshold)
TnTexas:

Does anyone think it would make a difference as to the probability of a filibuster occurring if Bush nominated one of the three guaranteed a vote (assuming they pass, of course) for any Supreme Court nomination that opens up? Do you think the Democrats would dare filibuster either of them since they let them through now? If they did filibuster them, do you think there would be a large amount of public support for the Constitutional/Nuclear option at that point?

What Spoons wrote, and same... (Below threshold)
-S-:

What Spoons wrote, and same as with what fatman wrote (^^). The minute I saw Lanny Davis on FOX today pronouncing "a win for moderates" (same with that blog link headline, this thread), I knew that meant that there'd been no resolution, that Republicans had caved and that the self-pats on the backs of Democrats were slaps in the face of progress. I think this is the case of the end of possibilities.

Hmmm, interesting, Ken. I ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Hmmm, interesting, Ken. I enjoyed reading that.

I had actually expected... (Below threshold)
Clive Tolson:

I had actually expected the Democrats to back down and allow every cloture vote to pass so they would not take the defeat on the rules change

The problem here, is that you failed to see this coming! Frist was leading the Evangelicals on, and apparently, you guys got suckered in the meantime.

Now, it will be fun to watch you turn on each other!

Hmmm.1. It was sig... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

1. It was signed by **Frist**. So it's not a side deal. It's completely official.

2. The wording is extremely important. And in the wording the Republicans got rolled big time. The key item is the "109th Congress". A new Congress gets seated every two years, after elections. The 109th Congress got seated only a few months ago, after the 2004 election. This means the Republicans cannot change the senate rules for TWO YEARS. Until AFTER the 2006 elections, which means in the first part of 2007.

It's just disgusting.

The deal was not sig... (Below threshold)

The deal was not signed by Frist.

I still blame him for this, but at least he didn't sign it.

This entire flap over filib... (Below threshold)
Dave A:

This entire flap over filibustering judicial nominees has been wrongly cast as being about judicial nominees (since there's so much at stake) rather than about the principle of unlimited debate - with the key concept there being the debate, not the "unlimited" part.

In my view, the trouble started (apparently innocently enough) a couple of decades ago when the Senate changed the rules on filibusters. Prior to that, a filibuster required a Senator to actually get up and speak in marathon fashion - obviously an endurance-limited process. Nowadays, these softies can filibuster by just saying that they are.

Change this rule back, and you will have "debate" on judicial nominees, followed (in less than 4 years, presumably) by a vote to confirm or reject. This would restore the filibuster to its traditional role in Senate procedure, and the public would have no sympathy for anyone whining about the change
.

First of all, I think this ... (Below threshold)
Mike:

First of all, I think this was a bad idea for the Republicans. Talk about not acting like the majority party! I always thought it would be better to force the Democrats to actually, you know, filibuster these nominees. Up until this point, it has always been the threat of using the filibuster. It would have been better to make these blowhards stand up and talk (we know they're good at it) 24/7 and showing the American people that the Democrats are willing to stop all other business because of this. Oh well.

Ken,
You said:
Remember that the opposition talked about how extreme the three are that are now going to get a vote without fillibuster. How do they declare an extraordinary condition in the future?

Simple, they compare the future judges to the 2 that got sacrificed in this deal. I'm curious what is going to happen to those 2 nominees now, are they the poster child for extraordinary circumstances?

And considering future nominees and the wording as ed describes. What if the Democrats consider someone not worthy of a vote and in the extraordinary circumstances, but the Republicans feel the opposite? Can the Republicans then state the Democrats are not acting in good faith and proceed with a rules change in the 109th Congress?

Overall, this deal just stinks.

And I'm curious, can GWB re-nominate Miguel Estrada for a position (that is, if Estrada wants it again)? That would be an interesting test case right off the bat.

I am very disappointed! Onc... (Below threshold)
Zsa Zsa:

I am very disappointed! Once again the Republican majority and it's leaders have caved and are going to be stabbed in the back! This solved nothing other than to pacify the democrats. Basically it is like everything the Republicans have gained for the American people is gone with the wind! I do mean wind too! The Democrats are a bunch of old wind bags that need to be popped! This fillibuster should be renamed as the fiasco and minipulation of the Senate Democrats! It should have been up or down long ago... The do nothing Democrats should have been given the boot! I disagree with what the Republicans have agreed to! It was time for some changes and the Republican majority should have not backed down!

I guess I am digressing her... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

I guess I am digressing here, but the behavior of the Republicans in this filibuster fiasco has gotten me to thinking about the behavior of the Republican Party as a majority party overall. Whether or not one agrees with the foreign policy direction (defined almost exclusively by the war on terrorism) of this particular administration, I believe that it has exhibited a persistently clear and aggressive stance in this regard. There certainly have been problems, but, hey, this is a war and that is to be expected. On the domestic front, however, the administration seems to flounder. The Social Security message is muddled. The Democrats pound the President for his proposals yet get away with either saying "the system is not as bad as you think" or get a pass for not offering anything as an alternative. The Republican majority in the Senate cannot convince the American public that it's reasonable to maintain a tradition of an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate for ALL judicial nominees passing committee. Geez, I read in my hometown paper now that there are folks who believe constitutionally mandated checks and balances lie in the filibuster and NOT in floor votes. I am trying to decide whether the Senate Republican leadership is really composed of leaders or a bunch of cowards.

As i read the reports our p... (Below threshold)
Coda:

As i read the reports our postion is straight forward but the Democraties still have this "extraordinary conditions". My question is who defines extra -ordinary conditions and what is the criteria to the above.

I made a statement on anoth... (Below threshold)

I made a statement on another blog that the Republicans are indeed operating under a mandate. As much hot air as has been blown over that term, it's natural meaning is that the Republicans were sent to Washington (in both houses, as well as the White House) to accomplish certain things. Upon the issues upon which they ran, however (most notably judicial and tort reform, social security repair, and healthcare reform), they have miserably failed their constituency. In the tradition of the "contract with America," they have folded under pressure from the DNC, the moonbats, and the media.

I am sorely disappointed in the Republican Congressional majority for losing sight of the fact that the strength of a democracy to take care of her minorities lies in the ability of a democracy to be responsive to her majority. Without a direct link from the public to their representatives in government, we're left with an oligarchy of a twisted sort, in which the most vocal opinons become law (as opposed to the most widely held opinions), and in which ultimately nobody's best interests are served.

DaveD I think half the prob... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

DaveD I think half the problem is that the GOP doesn't know what it means to lead as the majority party.

And Frist may be a very nice guy, but he has got to be one of the most ineffectual leaders for the GOP senate. They need somebody who has more gumptions, perserverence and tenacity. Frist seems to just want everyone to like him and to avoid any and all conflict.

Frist either needs to grow some balls, or step aside and let somebody who does have them go to work.

Train wreck, to be frank.... (Below threshold)

Train wreck, to be frank. Thats what this is.

I hate to be the skunk at t... (Below threshold)

I hate to be the skunk at the party, but the Senate has always been one long, ongoing train wreck. The part that wasn't designed that way, has gotten that way because delusions of grandeur are a prerequisite for seeking the office in the first place.

"My question is who defines... (Below threshold)
Master of None:

"My question is who defines extra -ordinary conditions and what is the criteria to the above."

This is defined in the agreement --- "each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgement". IOW, "extraordinary" is defined however you feel like defining it, and no matter how you define it, you can claim to stay within the agreement. On the other hand -- "we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th congress" doesn't leave much wiggle room as far as getting out of this agreement if you don't like a Senators self-definition of "extraordinary".

I'm guessing that a number of signers of this agreement are going to be calling upcoming nominees "extraordinary" faster than Ted Kennedy can drive off a bridge.

Here's the worst-case scena... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

Here's the worst-case scenario for the Republicans. Given that at least four of the ten nominees are definitely dead, and the three not accounted for are doubtful: What if the McCain Seven have a side deal with the vulnerable red-state Democrats to defeat the three named nominees in the floor vote? That might work in the form of certain Democrats being allowed to vote for the nominees, in order to throw some meat to the people back home, with the knowledge that McCain's group will produce enough votes to guarantee a 49-51 defeat. If that happens, then the Democrats have totally won, and the Republicans come out of the "compromise" with absolutely nothing.

FWIW: Limbaugh just reporte... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

FWIW: Limbaugh just reported that Frist called him before the show and said that he has not signed on to the deal.

I don't think it makes any ... (Below threshold)
Master of None:

I don't think it makes any difference if Frist signed on or not. The fourteen signatures are enough to prevent a rules change and enough to invoke cloture. As long as they stick together, and assuming no other Dems or Repubs switch sides, they control the nominations. We now have a minority of 14 senators controlling the process.

McCain wants to be presiden... (Below threshold)

McCain wants to be president so bad he can taste it. This is him crapping on Bush for having delivered a fatal blow to his run for the presidency in the 2000 South Carolina primary. McCain is also trying to get set for 2008 by upstaging Frist. Why can't the voters of Arizona send that nutjob packing?

Note to Clive: enjoy the cheap thrill while it lasts, pal. In a couple of months, maybe less, this will all be sorted out. But afterwards, you'll still be in bed with the losers.

This is just McCain showboa... (Below threshold)

This is just McCain showboating for the media. Again. I wish the people of Arizona would send this nutjob packing next time around.

Special note to Clive: enjoy the cheap thrills while you still can, pal. This brouhaha will most likely get sorted out in a couple of months, maybe less. But afterwards, the Democrats will still be losers.




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