Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Democrats Cave

Well, the Democrats in the Senate have given it almost their all, now have decided to blink first, and still call it a victory. I don't think so. By giving in to threats of the "nuclear option", the Senate Democrats have bought the Brooklyn Bridge. An extraordinary deal based on the definition of extraordinary.

By not insisting on excluding (for the second year in a row) right wing loose cannons from the Apellate Courts, the Senate Democrats have lost their ability to invoke "extraordinary circumstances" if Bush nominates them soon for the Supreme Court.

As today's Noam Scheiber's New Republic blog (written today by T.A. Frank) remarks: "Republicans will allow Democrats to keep the filibuster as long as Democrats never use it. This way, both sides win (except for the Democrats). "

The rest of this comment on this bad deal is worth reading, so to save you from going over to the New Republic web site, here it is in its entirety:

CENTER FOLDS: So a deal has been struck on the filibuster. Republicans will allow Democrats to keep the filibuster as long as Democrats never use it. This way, both sides win (except for the Democrats).

Once again, the Republicans have shown their skillfulness when it comes to resetting parameters. Until recently, the perception had been that Bush had consistently filled the courts with extreme conservatives, with only a handful of truly batty nominees failing to meet the standards of Democrats. Now, facing the threat of the "nuclear option," Democrats have backed down on these as well. Thanks to the "finest traditions of the Senate" (Robert Byrd's words yesterday), there's a new agreement under which, presumably, only the certifiably insane can possibly be blocked--or, to put it as the senators did, nominees can "only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances." That way, if Bush's pick for a judgeship finally goes too far even for Republicans--if he nominates, say, an Irish setter who, during confirmation hearings, runs up and bites Orrin Hatch in the leg, then Democrats will be allowed to play the bad guys and employ their filibuster. Otherwise, they'd better hold off, since, if they don't, Republicans might have to take the filibuster away for real.

Of course, if Democrats had been filibustering half of Bush's 200-some nominees instead of only a handful, or if, for example, they had spoken endlessly of "maintaining balance on the courts" and insisted that Bush also nominate some "centrists" and not only "extremists," then a compromise position would have looked very different. But by bracketing the debate between two right-wing extremes--confirm every nominee except for a handful or confirm every nominee through use of the nuclear option--the Republicans had won before they'd even begun.

Meanwhile, skilled negotiators that they are, Republicans have been wise enough not to gloat over their victory. "It has some good news and it has some disappointing news, and it will require careful monitoring," says Bill Frist, admirably feigning disappointment. Meanwhile, Democrats, who must now back down and allow the confirmation of some truly radical judges, don't feel humiliated. In fact, they speak as if they've won. "In a Senate that is increasingly polarized, the bipartisan center held," Joe Lieberman proudly announced. And here's Assistant Democratic Leader Richard Durbin of Illinois: "There is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at and missed."

Exhilarating indeed. Can somone please resurrect the Whigs?

--T.A. Frank


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