Monday, July 04, 2005


Filibuster Deal Puts Democrats In a Bind - Yahoo! News

With President Bush expected to name a successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor next week, liberals are laying the groundwork to challenge the nominee if he or she leans solidly to the right on affirmative action, abortion and other contentious issues. But even if they can show that the nominee has sharply held views on matters that divide many Americans, some of the 14 senators who crafted the May 23 compromise appear poised to prevent that strategy from blocking confirmation to the high court, according to numerous interviews.

The pact, signed by seven Democrats and seven Republicans, says a judicial nominee will be filibustered only under "extraordinary circumstances." Key members of the group said yesterday that a nominee's philosophical views cannot amount to "extraordinary circumstances" and that therefore a filibuster can be justified only on questions of personal ethics or character.
GOP leaders, sensing the Democrats' bind, expressed confidence yesterday that the Senate will confirm Bush's eventual nominee, no matter how ideologically rigid. "I think there is every expectation, every reason to believe that there will be no successful filibuster," Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on "Fox News Sunday."

Under the "Gang of 14" accord, the seven Republican signers agreed to deny Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) the votes he needed to carry out his threat to bar judicial filibusters by changing Senate rules. The seven are implicitly released from the deal if the Democratic signers renege on their end. Yesterday, key players suggested the seven Democrats will automatically be in default if they contend a nominee's ideological views constitute "extraordinary circumstances" that would justify a filibuster.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of the 14 signers, noted that the accord allowed the confirmation of three Bush appellate court nominees so conservative that Democrats had successfully filibustered them for years: Janice Rogers Brown, William H. Pryor Jr. and Priscilla R. Owen. Because Democrats accepted them under the deal, Graham said on the Fox program, it is clear that ideological differences will not justify a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee.
The debate goes to the heart of Democratic leaders' strategy to prevent Bush from replacing the centrist, swing-voting O'Connor with a justice more aligned with conservatives Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. For example, if Bush were to nominate Brown -- the outspoken California judge recently named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit -- "I could assure you that would be a very, very, very difficult fight, and she probably would be filibustered," Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

But Graham flatly rejected that view. With help from only one or two fellow Gang of 14 members, he is positioned to dissolve the deal and thwart Biden's scenario -- either by having enough Democratic signers refuse to back a filibuster, or by having enough GOP members support Frist in outlawing judicial filibusters.

I was out of the country when the "Gang of 14" deal came down. At the time, Dr. Bloor expressed his reservations amid all the blue back-slapping. How right he was.

If things go down as described here, we are so very fucked, and for a very long time.

Update: Digby concurs.


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