It’s a little late to chime in on the Senate “compromise” regarding judicial nominees, but I still feel the need to vent a bit. I’ve just looked over the terms of the agreement worked out by the seven Democrats and seven Republicans, and I think someone needs to notify the Capitol Police. The Democrats just royally raped the Republicans.
Under the terms of the deal, the Republicans agree to not threaten to change Senate rules and block filibusters of judicial nominees. In return, the Democrats agree to immediately allow votes on three judges, and refrain from filibustering other nominees except in “extraordinary circumstances.”
It’s no wonder that most lawyers in the Senate are Democrats. That agreement has loopholes big enough to fly the Death Star through. (Forgive me; I just saw Revenge Of The Sith Sunday.)
Let’s look at what each side gave up. The Republicans gave a concrete pledge to not change the rules regarding filibusters for as long as the agreement is in effect. That’s a hard pledge, with minimal room for wiggling and evading and finding “nuances.” They’ve effectively given up their most potent weapon.
Now, you’d think that would require the Democrats to make an even greater sacrifice. After all, the Republicans won the elections last November, and are in the majority. Further, with Vice President Dick Cheney holding the Senate Presidency (the only specific duty assigned to the Vice President by the Constitution), they have an even greater edge. They are bargaining from the position of strength.
But if you thought that, you’d be as much of a frigging moron as the Republicans in the Senate. They let the Democrats get away with promising to eschew the filibuster except in “extraordinary circumstances.”
Now, what constitutes those “extraordinary circumstances?” Why, whatever the Democrats feel it does. They specifically and deliberately did not define what that means. And since it could mean anything, it means exactly nothing.
I’ve already heard one activist (I wish I could have caught her name) quoted on the radio saying that any Supreme Court nomination, by definition, would constitute “extraordinary circumstances.” And by God, she’s right.
I’m no lawyer, I’m no Senator, I’m no great student of government, but without even trying I worked up what I think constitutes a good definition of what does NOT constitute “extraordinary circumstances.” I freely admit I stole the basic idea from Tom Clancy’s “Executive Orders,” when President Jack Ryan is weighing nominees for the recently-wiped-out Supreme Court.
I would have insisted that nominees who meet certain criteria shall not constitute “extraordinary circumstances.” Those criteria would be:
1) Several years’ experience on the bench at a lower level.
2) No extensive history of having their rulings overturned by higher courts.
3) No rulings overturned on fundamental Constitutional issues.
Now, the actual numbers of those items could be negotiated, but I think the basic outline would have served the Republicans far better than relying on “the good faith” of Senators.
It’s times like these that I’m relieved that I’m not a Republican.
I have to congratulate the Democrats. They’ve achieved a stunning victory with this agreement, one that cost them nothing, and handcuffed the Republicans. It was one of the finest political plays I’ve ever seen.
And tomorrow I think I’ll cruise by an animal shelter. I’ll ask them to save me the leftovers from the next batch of neuterings. Then I’ll be sending them to the GOP in the Senate. Even severed dog and cat testes would be an improvement from their current gelded state.