A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

It's a start

I still think their should be an up/down vote on all of Bush's nominees that make it out of committee (ie., all of them), but at least some of them will get the opportunity they should have had long before. The Democrats have made a committment that "future nominees to the appeals court and Supreme Court should "only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances," with each Democrat senator holding the discretion to decide when those conditions had been met."

It will be interesting to see what democratic senators find "extraordinary circumstances" when the big one roles around and Bush nominates one or more Supreme Court Justice. In a principled, respectful situation with honest, trustworthy individuals involved, this type of compromise would be perfectly acceptable.

Unfortunately, this is the U.S. Senate.


You reminded me of the old joke:

As the senator was paying the pimp for services rendered, the pimp handed the money to his girl, saying "count it".

"Sir, I am a US Senator," the senator said in a huff.

"Count it twice," the pimp replied.

This is a bad deal for everyone involved. The democrats say only in "extraordinary circumstances" will they filibuster judicial candidates. So, that means the ones they now let pass were not extreme. Which means the democrats were playing politics all along.

As for the republicans, they showed their usual lack of spine. Are you going to insist on the constitutionally mandated simple majority or not? Not, sadly.

And nothing was solved. When there is a vacancy in the Supreme Court, we'll go through all of this again. As is typical with our federal government, they just pushed the problem to another day.
The previous was posted by me, John H. I must have fat-fingered the entry info.
filibuster=terri schiavo
living in persistently vegetative state
It is interesting that the only thing getting discussed in this is the filibustering. No one is actually talking about the fact that the appointment of judges has a huge impact on people in this country but is never discussed when people are running for President or the Senate.
I don't know if the judicial appointments in question here are appointments-for-life, but since many of them are, it seems like reviewing of judges would be a pretty major thing. Although I don't necessarily agree with the Senate majority leader on this one, "Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist called the filibuster fight the "greatest single constitutional issue to confront the Senate in our lifetime.""
I tend to think that the Patriot act (and any future additions or subtractions to it) might be a little more important.
Anyway, the point is that we can't let this item die as just a political fight between the crypts and the bloods. We have to make our candidates answer for who they voted for (or who they would vote for) when they run for election and use that information in our election process.
I agree with John H that the prospective judges who are sent to Congress by the President should receive an up-or-down vote with a simple majority confirming them. That said, however, there is no mandate in the Constitution for a simple majority on judicial nominations. The Constitution simply says that the Congress is to advise and consent. Yet, because the Constitution does not specifically demand a super-majority either, it is up to congressional rules to determine the number of votes or type of majority that is required.

Both sides are being disingenuous on the topic. The Republicans were all for the filibuster in the 90s when the Democrats were trying to get rid of it. Also, while the Republicans didn't filibuster any of Clinton's nominees, they did hold some of them up in committee which kept them from getting an up-or-down vote on the floor. The argument could have been made at the time, similar to what the Republicans are arguing now, that keeping nominees locked up in committee violated at least the spirit of Congress' constitutional duty to advise and consent. After all, the Constitution doesn't say that Congress is to advise and consent only on those nominees who clear committee.

Likewise, the Democrats have pushed to remove the filibuster in the past and complained about Republican obstructionism keeping judicial nominations from receiving and up-or-down vote. One of the more amusing elements of the Democrats arguments is that the minority must have a check on the majority to keep them from being able to use a simple majority to push people into positions of power; this from the party which argued in 2000 that, electoral college be damned, Al Gore received a simple majority of the votes nationwide. Reid's checks and balances argument is a red herring since the concept of checks and balances was to keep one BRANCH of government from grabbing too much power, not to check the power of separate factions within a given branch.

When it comes down to it, the filibuster of judicial nominees (not all filibusters) is being so heavily debated because it creates a de facto situation where a three-fifths majority is required to confirm. Regardless of the spin from either side, removing the filibuster of presidential appointments to the judiciary is neither a "nuclear option," nor a "constitutional option." It is an allowable change to Senate rules; rules which did not exist in the first four decades of the Senate, and rules which have been amended since they were first installed.

Troy is right that judges have a large impact on the people of this nation, but the better part of that impact comes from judges who have decided to legislate from the bench. When the judiciary creates rights and privileges where none previously existed, based upon their interpretation of the Constitution, and uses those newly found rights and privileges to overturn existing legislation, or to amend the scope of existing legislation, then we have a court system which is dangerously close to overstepping the limitations of its duties. This is where Congress should truly be focused. If Congress threatened to implement its right to impeach judges who are going over the line, then we'd really be talking about checks and balances.

Finally, since Troy mentioned it, I'm not sure that there is anything truly dangerous about the Patriot Act. Yes, there have been accusations made of its current or possible assault upon our civil rights, but has anyone read it? It is a huge document and a very dry read, sometimes made worse because it amends existing legislation without listing the full section being amended, but if one actually sat down and read through everything that it amends and allows, it becomes evident that many of the claims against it are baseless, political spin. Judicial oversight is required for searches and surveillance, notice of a search may be delayed (but must still have court approval) in order to avoid loss of life or evidence, the AG must report twice a year to Congress regarding all investigations launched under its auspices, any group that is to be subject to surveillance under the law must be reviewed by Congress and the group's name must be published in the Federal Register, etc. Claims made about the "draconian" nature of the Patriot Act should be checked against the act itself before believing them wholesale. While the act may be need some changes that can be implemented through its sunset clause, odds are you will find that the allegations are much ado about nothing.
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