Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Judicial nominees

Yesterday, President Bush renominated seven judicial nominees that Democrats filibustered in the last Senate term. It will be interesting to see whether Republicans can get them through this time, having picked up four seats in the last election. I doubt, however, that the larger Republican will make much difference because two of the Democrats not returning (John Breaux of Louisiana and Zell Miller of Georgia) had opposed the filibuster effort. Although the new Democrat from Colorado, Ken Salazar, may support a controversial nominee that Democrats were blocking, Republicans are still about two or three votes short of the magical 60 votes required to shut down debate.

President Bush will argue something along the lines that Democrats are being obstructionist. In the sense that Democrats are preventing an up or down vote, definitely. President Bush will also argue that Democrats are being partisan. Definitely. But so is President Bush. If he really wanted to fill the vacancies, he could easily have nominated less controversial but still conservative people. After all, Democrats have "only" filibustered about ten of the approximately 129 nominations President Bush made over the last two years (104 were confirmed). I used quotation marks because whether 10 out of 129 is a little or a lot depends on partisan perspective.

Why is President Bush renominating the judges he knows Democrats will oppose? It's a bone to conservative interest groups to keep them happy. And why are Democrats opposing nominees who in all likelihood won't prove as terrible as the rest of President Bush's nominees? It's a bone to liberal interest groups to keep them happy. Is there anything we can do about this? Nothing, except that Republicans could try to reach a filibuster-proof majority or else unilaterally change the filibuster rule. The former could happen in 2006 (Bush carried more than 30 states in the last election, and many Democrats are from solidly red states) . The latter could happen this year. Watch for fireworks!

Regarding the Boxer-Feinstein trivia question I posed yesterday, two commenters caught the mistake when I said the senators were first elected in 1994. The senators were elected in 1992. Senator Feinstein is the senior of the two because Senator Boxer was initially elected to serve out the remainder of Pete Wilson's term after he became governor. Senator Boxer had to run again in 1994 for her first full term. Because the two commenters corrected me and guessed right, they each receive 10 Goodwill Points, redeemable value to be determined.

8 Comments:

Blogger bum said...

i will be honest...i really don't care. i could explain why but i might come off as some unpleasant things. anyway, is this a new thing? have previous presidents done this before?

2/15/2005 06:06:00 PM  
Blogger sling said...

a scary thought. i never realized how close the republicans were to being a lot more powerful than they already are.

2/16/2005 12:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bumfromjersey's commentary borders on filibustering. your contributions are garbage.

- burp (former owner of goodwill points)

2/16/2005 12:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why shouldn't the President accuse filibustering Democrats of being obstructionist? After all, why do they vote themselves raises each year if they are not doing their job? If they don't like a nominee, have the backbone to vote him down rather than OBSTRUCTING the democratic process. By the way, under prior Democratic presidencies, how many flag-burning, war-protesting judicial nominees were filibustered by the Republicans?

2/16/2005 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger 4moreyears said...

I posted the last comment but forgot to sign in. I wouldn't want someone to think that 'burp' had posted it.

2/16/2005 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger bum said...

hmm...i don't know how my comments border of filibustering. anyway though, i will restate my question: have their been any presidents in the past who have renominated judges in their second term?

also, one man's garbage is another man's treasure. you should know that. after all, doesn't your mother refer to you as her little treasure?!

hardy har har har har.

2/16/2005 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger putonyourspecs said...

A little historical perspective to place the current partisan war over judicial nominees:

1980s: President Reagan makes it a part of his agenda to appoint ideologically conservative judges, explicitly breaking with the mold that presidents at least pretend that the process is nonpartisan.

1987: President Reagan nominates Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. Democrats and liberal groups savage his nomination and he goes down in defeat.

1991: President Bush nominates Clarence Thomas, a stealth nominee who claimed to have never talked about Roe v. Wade with anyone in his entire life even though that case was decided while he was in law school. Thomas is confirmed despite Anita Hill.

1994: Republicans sweep into power, and make blocking Clinton judges a top priority of their agenda, both to avenge Bork and Thomas and to placate the Christian conservatives who want judges who decide cases in fashion consistent with conservative social values. Because Republicans control the Senate, they do not need to use the filibuster to block politically accountable votes on judicial nominees; instead Republicans refuse to even schedule votes. A result is numerous vacancies for President Bush to fill.

2001: After President Bush is elected, Senator Jeffords throws control of the Senate to Democrats. Democrats block many judicial nominees, out of bitterness that Republicans had kept the vacant judgeships open for a Republican to fill and at the urging of liberal groups seeking to stymie the advance of a conservative agenda. Since Democrats control the Senate, they do not need to filibuster nominees as they can simply refuse to hold the votes.

2002: Republicans regain control of the Senate. Republicans schedule the votes, but Democrats filibuster some nominees.

This brief history shows that the confirmation process has been an arena where there has been tit for tat, where Democrats and Republicans have sought to avenge past blocked judicial nominees. Both parties are to blame. Saying that Democrats are the only party to blame is to ignore this past history; the vacancy problem is also attributable to Republicans since they blocked Clinton from filling those seats.

2/16/2005 04:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is "Burp" synonymous with "anonymous"?

- burp

2/16/2005 07:27:00 PM  

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