Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Frist & The GOP: All or Nothing

I have a 4-year old daughter. She's generally very good, but like any 4-year old sometimes she gets cranky and throws a temper tantrum. The underlying constant of each one of these tantrums is that she wants something, and there will be no alternative. Either she gets what she wants, or she's throwing a tantrum. It's her nuclear option, and thankfully, as she grows up, she uses it less and less.

The same can't be said of the Republican leadership. It's not good enough that 205 of 215 of Bush's judicial nominations were confirmed. They want all of them. And if the Democrats want to block a few of the really whack job nominees, then by god the Republicans will throw a tantrum and nuke 'em.

How very 4-year old of them. I recognize the tactics they are using to support their position of all or nothing, My daughter uses them as well.

First up, is the "it's not fair" whine, as the GOP calls preventing nominees from coming up for a vote unfair. I love it when they piously go on the political talk shows and decry that they just want to give every nominee an up or down vote. How convenient for the majority to just want a vote on something they want. I wonder how that might turn out with more Republicans voting than Democrats. Sorry guys, I don't see the fairness in abusing your majority to ram through some extreme nominees.

The fairness whine also ties directly into the good old Bart Simpson defense "I didn't do it!" Republicans would never stop judicial nominees from being given their up or down vote (he says dripping with sarcasm). Why that wouldn't be fair. So instead, they just never allow nominees to get to the Senate to receive that up or down vote. They just block them in Republican controlled committee! That's much more fair. So if a nominee doesn't get to the Senate to get an up or down vote, is that candidate really denied an up or down vote? Sorry guys, but "the committee did it" just isn't cutting it as a defense.

Next we have the "you're just picking on me" excuse for why those nasty ill-mannered Democrats are blocking these nice nominees. "It's unprecedented" the Republicans cry! The filibuster has never been used to block judicial nominees until these obstructionist Democrats! Well, about that: You see, once again the Republicans are playing a bit loose with the facts. Actually in this case, they are just plain ignoring them. From Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago via the Chicago Tribune:
The Senate filibuster is a classic example of such a procedure. The filibuster has been recognized by the Senate at least since 1790. Although it has been used most often to force compromise on proposed legislation, it has also been used to encourage compromise on executive and judicial nominations. The filibuster was first used to block a judicial nominee in 1881, when it was invoked against Rutherford B. Hayes' nomination of Stanley Matthews to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Matthews was eventually confirmed.) From 1950 to 2000, the filibuster was used at least 17 times in the context of judicial nominations, most famously in the successful effort of Republicans to derail President Lyndon B. Johnson's nomination of Abe Fortas as chief justice in 1968.
What?! Republicans have filibustered judicial nominees before! Mr. Frist, has someone's been fibbing.

Finally we have the 4-year old's line of last defense: the "compromise" approach. Of course to a 4-year old, compromise means you give me what I want and I'll give you something you had anyway. Case in point, Mr. Frist's latest "compromise." From the NY Times:
He said he would let Democrats block lower court nominees if they gave up the power to block nominees to the appeals courts and the Supreme Court. That would mean ceding control of the courts to the far right because lower court judges are bound to follow the higher courts. He also offered to guarantee up to 100 hours of debate on appeals court and Supreme Court nominees, but that would merely delay the point at which Democrats were cut out.
I think even my daughter would get this "compromise." To sum up what "playground bully" Billy Frist is saying: "You silly Democrats stay off the slide and we'll let you play in the corner of the sandbox. But we'll let you tell us all about how you should be able to play on the slides for a whole recess... before we send you back to the corner of the sandbox.

All or nothing. That's all the Republicans want.