Monday, May 23, 2005


The Senate compromise over judicial filibusters is, frankly, sickening. It lets some of President Bush’s stalled nominees through to a full vote while preserving the filibuster for “extraordinary circumstances.”

Since Democratic senators have approved about 95 percent of Bush’s nominees for judgeships, it’s pretty clear that the few that were stalled were, by definition, extraordinary. Tonight’s compromise subsequently comes off as somewhat surreal — at best. At worst, it makes democrats look cynical and hypocritical, as this compromise has them tacitly agreeing there was nothing really all that bad about some of the nominees to which they’ve been so passionately opposed.

The only good that might come from this procedural farce is letting Republicans back away with some grace from the “nuclear option” ending filibusters. Having already backed off from ethics committee changes over Tom DeLay, they were probably reluctant to give Democrats another win.

If this is true, we’re likely to almost immediately be back to business as usual, with Bush sending panting ideologues toward the bench, Democrats blocking them via filibuster and the Republicans gnashing their teeth, speaking in tongues and vowing revenge.

Since the “extraordinary circumstances” language is so loose, though, it really serves as a test of intent. If Bush behaves true to form, the Democrats are sure to be filibustering very soon, and we’ll see if Republicans have learned a lesson. Or we’ll see Democrats holding back for a filibuster for the inevitable U. S. Supreme Court fights, which will give Republicans a win even by letting though Bush nominees for appeals courts that are already hard-line conservative.

Either way, this nuclear war — like any, which makes the GOP’s selection of the term odd — never should have gotten so far. Let’s hope history describes this incident as Republicans fingers quivering over the button and Democrats in the cross hairs ... bargaining for their lives, promising anything ... fingers crossed behind their backs.

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