What's All This Then?
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Just a short comment on last night’s Senate action. It wasn’t "miraculous" - a word I used in yesterday’s comments. And for the life of me, I can’t see how what happened could be considered a compromise!!
The most common dictionary definition of the word "compromise" is "a settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions."
If what happened in the Senate yesterday was a compromise, Webster et al will have to start looking for a new definition.
The way I read the story, what happened was as follows. The seven Republicans said, we’re going to confirm three of the pending judicial nominations. You won’t try to stop us and for now at least, we won’t vote aye on the "nuclear option." You also won’t try to stop "up or down" judicial nominee votes in the future except under "extraordinary circumstances," but if we disagree on what constitutes an extraordinary circumstance, we’ll just go back to the same old nuclear option. So listen up Democrats. We outnumber you so we’re dictating the terms of this so called compromise But we’re not an unfeeling bunch of bastards, so we’ll help you pretend that with this surrender - I mean compromise, sorry about that - the dignity of the Senate and the rights of the minority have been preserved.
The seven Democrats said, yes sir, yes sir, three bags full, then dropped their pants and mooned each other in triumph.
Of course the "compromise" sounds very much like the offer of surrender that Harry Reid made to Doctor Frist a while back and that the wannabe future President rejected out of hand. Like the allies at the end of World War II, he wanted unconditional surrender. So I guess in one sense, the Democrats accomplished something that could be considered worth while by surrendering to other Republicans. They helped weaken Frist in his race for the 2008 Republican nomination.
But overall, I’m disappointed in the outcome. Mostly I’m disappointed in the seven Republicans who found a way to have their cake and eat it too. Much like the kind of politician that I described on " Friday the Thirteenth" when I was writing about Senator Voinovich. The reason that the "compromise" overrides Frist’s all or nothing challenge to the opposition is that the seven votes of the Republican compromisers, added to 44 Democrats and one independent, is enough to nuke the nuclear option. But if Frist doesn’t try to call their bluff, they’ll never have to cast those votes, so their cake supply will never be depleted. Not by a single crumb.
I’m also disappointed in the Democrats because while there was no way they were ever going to "win" in terms of blocking judges who they deemed to be too politically extreme to sit on the Federal appeals bench , they did have the opportunity to force all 100 senators to vote "up or down" on the question of sustaining or limiting the right of the minority to filibuster on any issue or any nomination. It was a seminal moment in the history of the legislative branch of government and they opted to join with their cake eating Republican colleagues to back away from it. Now the question of what each sitting senator truly believes about the rights of those in the minority to have an input into or to slow down or even stop legislation they deem unacceptable will remain unanswered. And those who will be running for re-election in the future will never have to defend or explain a position they never took. So they gave their Republican friends a double win.
Today, I’m hearing some Democratic Senators on the radio calling the compromise a victory for the American people. I think that’s just an attempt at face saving. It may be some kind of victory for those who believe that Patricia Owen, Janice Brown and William Pryor will make fine Appeals Court Judges, but I doubt that the rest of us feel that the American people had a victorious Monday. Just one that we’d like to put behind us and hope isn’t going to be a harbinger for what to expect from this Senate for the balance of the Bush Presidency.