May 24, 2005

James Taranto

. . . summarizes the deal for averting procedural changes in the Senate:

We favor an end to the obstruction of judicial nominees via filibuster, and it strikes us that this agreement is likely to accomplish that, at least for this Congress (after which the agreement expires). If so, the nuclear option will have shown its value as a deterrent.

The agreement binds the 14 senators who signed it to vote for cloture (i.e., against a filibuster) of the three remaining nominees the Democrats have most demonized: Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and Bill Pryor. The compromisers expressly "make no commitment to vote for or against cloture" of two additional nominees, William Myers and Henry Saad. The status of two other nominees, Brett Kavanaugh and William Haynes, is unclear. Early this afternoon the Senate voted 81-18 for cloture on Owen's nomination; an actual confirmation vote should come by tomorrow.

The 14 also agreed not to filibuster judicial nominees except "under extraordinary circumstances" and to oppose the nuclear option. Since there are 48 Republicans and 38 Democrats (including Jeffords) who are not parties to the agreement, at least three compromising Democrats would have to find "extraordinary circumstances" in order to sustain a filibuster. If at least two Republicans disagreed and thus concluded the Dems were violating the agreement, they could abandon the pledge and go nuclear.

All this may be academic, though. The most crucial passage in the agreement may prove to be this one: "Each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such ['extraordinary'] circumstances exist." As a practical matter, this applies only to the Democratic signatories, since no Republican has ever voted to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee.

The seven Democratic signatories, that is, have now declared that they will decide how to vote on judicial filibusters rather than take directions from the party. Two of them, Robert Byrd and Daniel Inouye, probably did so largely to preserve "Senate tradition"; but the other five--Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor and Ken Salazar--are all generally moderate, and all from red states except Lieberman. Their inclinations and political interests diverge from those of Barbara Boxer, Ted Kennedy and other far-left blue-staters.

If left-wing Democrats want to filibuster another nominee, they will have to persuade Minority Leader Harry Reid to risk another nuclear confrontation and persuade at least one of the moderate compromising five, plus Byrd, Inouye and every single uncompromising Dem, that it's worth it. It could happen, but we're not betting on it.

Which appears pretty accurate. Now go to the site: it's the best of the web, after all.

Posted by Attila at May 24, 2005 11:01 PM

Good summary. I've generally stopped reading Taranto because he seems so partisan

Posted by: beautifulatrocities at May 25, 2005 09:07 AM

Well, I'm betting on it. Below, from the NY Times Wed. 05/25/05 is just how hard Reid is to persuade.

"There's nothing in anything that was done last night that prevents us from filibustering somebody that's extreme, whether it's on the district court, on a circuit court or the Supreme Court," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader."

I'm just surprised he waited so long.

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