Senate To Decide On Judicial Filibusters

Months of endless hemming and hawing are finally, hopefully, drawing to a close.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has sent the embattled nomination of Texas judge Priscilla Owen to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to the Senate floor for debate. The Senate is expected to debate Owen’s nomination for the rest of the week. The fireworks will start next week as Democrat will move to filibuster the nomination, whereupon Frist plans to call a vote on banning judicial filibusters. No one knows how that vote will go.

Democrats, lead by Sen. Harry Reid, are fighting to keep their right to obstruct judicial nominees from receiving an up or down vote in the Senate. What ever crap they’re spewing about “cherished freedoms,” and “200 years of history,” etc. is just that – complete and utter bullshit. When Clinton was president and some of his nominees were blocked in committee pretty much every Democrat of note went on record opposing the use of filibusters (and other delay tactics) to keep nominees from receiving an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate. All the constitution requires is the “advice and consent” of the Senate, everything after that is a byzantine history of Senate rules, traditions, and gentleman’s agreements.

Republicans are equally guilty of convenient short term memory loss. Republicans did put some Clinton nominees, for all intent and purposes, on hold forever. Acting like the Democratic minority in Congress has crossed some new magic line that had never been crossed before, while technically true, is blatantly unrepresentative of recent history. One could claim that Reid’s Democratic caucus learned how to game the judicial nomination system from their predecessors – notably Bill Clinton’s Republican opposition in the Senate.

At the end of the day if neither side wants to play by the rules, traditions, and gentleman’s agreements which have loosely governed the judicial nomination process for decades, I say “fine, get on with it.”

Reid has said that Democrats will block all committee hearings from going on while the Senate debates Owen, and has threatened to block all Senate business if the judicial filibuster (cloture) is ruled out of order. Reid should have a conversation with Newt Gingrich on how well that strategy is likely to play out, but for purely selfish reasons I encourage him to go with his “neutron” option in response to the “nuclear” option.

For Frist the judicial filibuster issue will effectively determine his future as the Majority Leader. Frist took this upon himself and has come too far to back down or take a last minute deal. For Frist it’s do or die, as a defeat will probably submarine any hopes he has for the Presidency in 2008 and would likely call into question his leadership position after the 2006 elections. For all of Frist’s talk about the principle of every nominee receiving an up-or-down vote, I say the time to talk about your principles is over. Either do something or change the topic…

I think I speak for a majority (on both sides) in urging them to just get the hell on with it and let the chips fall where they may. I’m tired of hearing the BS from both sides.

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