Long live the Republic? Or just the Republicans?

So I'm still wrestling with the Senate deal on filibusters of judicial nominees. Three of them are likely to slip through, two of them are dead, and two of them are up in the air. The filibuster lives on for judicial nomination battles in "extraordinary circumstances," but the 7 moderate Republicans can still go nuclear if the Democrats use the filibuster in "ordinary" circumstances. So all we've really done is punt the issue for another time -- likely when there's a Supreme Court battle.

Was this a victory for the Dems? Or a capitulation? Or neither? Who wins and loses here?


Blogger Categorically Imperative said...

That's a good question. I'm inclined to see it as a win, but with one major caveat. On the micro level, all the action is going to revolve around the definition of "extraordinary circumstances." The deal states that it's up to each Senator to define that him or herself, in good faith. So in order for the GOP to renege on the deal and go for the nuke later, the 7 signatories to the deal would not only have to disagree that a nominee is extreme, but also accuse a fellow Senator of bad faith. I can't see this happening. Basically, if the Dems can get the caucus together for a filibuster on a future nominee, the GOP isn't going to be able to stop it.

On a macro level, the deal has completely neutered Bill Frist and, to a lesser extent, Dubya and the far right wing of the GOP. The deal is essentially a Senate coup, with the moderates now holding all the power on judicial nominations. Anyone too far right is not going to make it, and the Senate basically told Bush he'd better think very carefully about who he sends to the Supreme Court. All of Frist's bluster today about not being a party to the deal is simply an indication that he knows he's now irrelevant as far as judicial nominations go.

Now the caveat: if Owen and Brown aren't filibuster-worthy, then who is? It seems to me the GOP can argue that if these two aren't extreme, then the Dems have no reason to filibuster the next batch of far-right judges who come along. Put it this way: if Bush nominates Brown to the Supreme Court, are the Dems going to filibuster? If they do, will the GOP make the bad faith argument and go for the nuke? It's hard to see why they wouldn't.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005  

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