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December 23, 2004

The Energizer presidency: W and judicial nominations

Most of us have seen monster movies where, time and again, the heroes think they've dispatched the beast to the great beyond, only to have the thing pounce on them again five minutes later.

Congressional Democrats probably feel a lot like the monster-movie victims when it comes to dealing with President Bush. They found out pretty quickly that he couldn't be manipulated as easily as other national GOP leaders could. This has, over the past four years, forced the Dems to employ increasingly drastic and desperate measures to hold W's agenda at bay.

Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the area of judicial nominations. In Bush's first term many of his judicial nominees were met with "filibusters"* and threatened "filibusters" (which tactic had never before been employed against judicial nominees who had enough votes for confirmation).

(* I put "filibusters" in quotes because they weren't actual filibusters. Nobody had time for real filibusters, so instead, each time the Republicans threatened to bring up a nominee, some Dem would pipe up, "Hey, pretend we're filibustering right now." And the Republicans would respond, "Okee dokee. Next item of business." The United States Senate, just around the corner from.... The Twilight Zone.)

These pretend filibusters were enough to kill a lot of nominations.

To the Dems, any smart Republican president would get the message and start nominating judges who hated everything the Republicans stood for.

Not this president.

Even though the Dems have threatened to continue to use their (possibly illegal, definitely unethical) pretend filibuster, today the president announced that he would be resubmitting the names of 20 judges whose nominations were killed via this tactic in his first term.

There's no doubt that the president truly wants these judges confirmed, but there's also some speculation that he is submitting these particular names as irresistable bait to get the Dems to try their game again. Why? It appears that the Senate GOP leaders might be ready to grow a backbone and try to put an end to this obstructionism.

Robert Novak describes how the "nuclear option" might play out in the opening days (or weeks) of the new session:
A scenario for an unspecified day in 2005: One of President Bush's judicial nominations is brought to the Senate floor. Majority Leader Bill Frist makes a point of order that only a simple majority is needed for confirmation. The point is upheld by the presiding officer, Vice President Dick Cheney. Democratic Leader Harry Reid challenges the ruling. Frist moves to table Reid's motion, ending debate. The motion is tabled, and the Senate proceeds to confirm the judicial nominee -- all in about 10 minutes.
Simple as that; no more pretend filibusters on judicial nominees. Novak goes on to note that the prececent for this type of maneuver belongs to the Democrats -- Sen. Robert Byrd effected Senate rules changes in this way four times as majority leader.

Grab some popcorn; this may get good.

P.S. Check out Scott Ott's recommendations on who Bush should nominate, and why.

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