Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Turnabout Is Unacceptable 

The Democrats just blocked another of the president's judicial nominees, William Myers III, a former mining lobbyist who has likened environmental regulation to King George's tyranny over the thirteen colonies. The tally so far during the Bush administration is seven nominees blocked, 198 confirmed. This crisis of democracy means it must be time for Bill Frist to rewrite the filibuster rules -- rules the Republicans have been only too happy to exploit when there's a Democrat in the White House:
While Frist said he was actively considering changing the Senate rules several months ago, it now appears that the majority leader is on board with an effort by leading conservative senators to execute the tactic, which would prohibit lawmakers from filibustering judicial nominees.

Senate Democratic leadership aides have warned that if Republicans stripped senators of the power to filibuster judges, it would lead to a freeze in bipartisan relations that they compare to a nuclear winter. They say that Democrats would bring the chamber to a standstill in retaliation, but Republican proponents note that Democrats have, for the most part, done so already . . . .

About a month ago, a group of prominent conservatives including former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese, former Bush White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, Federalist Society legal expert Leonard Leo, Heritage Foundation scholar Todd Gaziano, and others met to discuss the plight of blocked judges.

“We do want a commitment from the leadership to get it done,” said Gaziano, who declined to comment on the details of the discussion or reveal the other participants. “We want a commitment from [the leadership] that they’ll get results and not that they’ll just try, that they’ll actually get results in ending the filibuster” . . . .

Frist could pursue the so-called constitutional or “nuclear” option. One variation of the tactic would entail asking the vice president or a member of the majority presiding over the chamber to issue a ruling from the chair invalidating filibusters of judicial nominees. Democrats would be certain to object to such a ruling, but their objection could be overruled by a majority vote.

Another tactic would be to extend the legislative day over the course of many calendar days, taking advantage of the rule that a lawmaker can only speak twice on the same subject during a legislative day. Such a tactic would exhaust the ability of Democrats to filibuster a nominee or group of nominees.
As E.J. Dionne mentions in the article linked above, "Fifty-five Clinton judicial nominees never got a hearing and 10 more never got a vote in the Judiciary Committee."

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