Shouldn’t Bush’s judicial nominees be permitted an up-or-down vote before the full Senate? Isn’t that a reasonable thing to ask?
Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole makes that case on today’s NY Times op-ed page.
But reasonable as that sounds, I’m still opposed. Why? Because I’m still angry about the things that Dole neglects to mention in his article. Dole tries to make it seem that the Democrats just started filibustering judicial nominees without any provocation.
”By creating a new threshold for the confirmation of judicial nominees, the Democratic minority has abandoned the tradition of mutual self-restraint that has long allowed the Senate to function as an institution.”
That “tradition of self-restraint” apparently wasn’t in effect back when Bill Clinton was in office either. Back then, Republicans used other Senate procedures to keep more than 60 of Clinton’s judicial nominees from receiving up-or-down votes. That is six times as many as Bush has faced from the Democratic opposition. How come there were no anguished cries and gnashing of teeth from conservatives back when those judicial nominees were left to languish without an up-or-down vote?
Since that time, the Republicans have abused their majority status by altering the rules to eliminate blue-slipping and other procedures once available to the minority party. Without access to these “pocket vetoes” which Republicans used incessantly throughout Clinton’s two terms, Democrats were forced to use the filibuster option lest they have no say whatsoever in the appointment of judges.
And to their credit, Democrats have used that power very infrequently - blocking only 10 of Bush’s picks out of more than 215, for a 95 percent approval rate. That rate would be even higher today except that Republicans have lately taken to holding up votes on some of Bush’s non-controversial nominees in order to keep that number as low as possible for political purposes.
When I think of all the Democratic judges who were blocked from recieving a confirmation vote a few years ago I tend to get angry. And when I get angry I am not always persuaded by logic and reason. If you think that the Democrats blocking 10 of Bush’s judicial picks is unfair, then you should understand why it was even more unfair (six times over) when the same thing happened to Clinton appointees. Even with 10 blocked nominees, the Republicans are coming out of this with a much better deal than the Democrats got. Why should they get every judicial nomination they want, especially when Bush is making no effort to compromise and pick people who would be even nominally acceptable to the other party?
If the Republicans were really committed to reforming the judicial confirmation process they would let these 10 nominations go before trying to change the rules of the Senate. Instead, they are trying to obliterate the last option Democrats have for having any voice in this process in order to punch through this last motley bunch of nominees. If they are successful Bush will have no more reason to moderate any of his nominations. He will have carte blanche to fill up the courts with all the like-minded far-right evangelicals he can find and be assured of the kind of 100 percent approval rate from the rubber-stamp Senate that would make most dictators blush.