Monday, May 09, 2005

Playing Not to Lose

Republican Majority Leader and all around good guy, Senator Bill Frist, has been threatening to pull the nuclear trigger in the Senate for weeks now, effectively changing the rules of the Senate and thereby eliminating the minority's ability to filibuster.

So for all the saber rattling, why hasn't he pulled the trigger yet? Could it be the majority of Americans from both parties are against his use of nuclear arms tactics? Could it be prominent republican senators, like Senator Hagel (R-NE), have publicly called the GOP's tactics false? Could it have anything to do with the fact that at a 96.6% confirmation rate, Bush has the best record of judicial nominee of any modern president?

Let's recap the situation the Democrats are faced with here: The public is against Frist's nuclear build up, many Republicans are fearful of pulling the trigger, and the facts (gasp of surprise) favor the the Democrats. Faced with these odds what's a Democrat to do?

Why, offer a lopsided "bipartisan" compromise, of course!

It seems those wacky Democrats just can't stand not being friends, and just like any abused spouse, want to make up so badly that they are willing to undermine their own party to avoid confrontation. It's enough to make me want to pick on Democrats myself. From The Hill, via Political Wire:
The deal "would involve at least a half-dozen Senators from each party signing a letter or memorandum of understanding that signals how they would proceed to vote on all matters related to judicial nominations."

"The agreement would not require a single vote to be cast for it to be executed. As long as each side has at least six Senators willing to uphold it, Senate Republicans would be unable to carry out the nuclear option and Senate Democrats would be unable to execute a successful filibuster."
So much for party unity. What type of deal is this? Further info from the Hill article in the comments at dKos:
The six Senate Republicans would commit to opposing the so-called nuclear option to end judicial filibusters, which would leave GOP leaders short of the 50 votes they need to execute the parliamentary move to abolish the procedure.

In exchange, the six Senate Democrats would pledge to allow votes on four of the seven circuit court nominees who were already filibustered in the 108th Congress and have been re-nominated.

Perhaps more importantly, the six Democrats would pledge to vote for cloture to end filibuster attempts on all other judicial nominees named by President Bush, including Supreme Court picks, except in "extreme circumstances," according to a senior aide familiar with the discussions.
So let's see if I'm reading this deal correctly: In exchange for the GOP not pulling the nuclear trigger - essentially publicly changing the rules of the game, something that they many not have the votes to do, something that the public is firmly against, something that could be used as a political weapon against them in 2006, and something that could cost the majority leader his political aspirations - Democrats agree to undermine their party's unity every time their colleagues try to use the filibuster to offset the majority's advantage related to any and all judicial nominees - supreme court nominees included. But the Democrats still reserve the right to filibuster for "really really" bad nominees. Wow. Way to stand strong!

I don't get it. Could be I'm just ignorant. Could be I'm short sighted. But why all the joy in Mudville about blocking three of the seven nominees so we can reserve the filibuster for the really bad ones? I thought these were the really bad ones?

If we block 3 of 7 nominees, that means the GOP get 4 of 7. Four nominees that Democrats thought were bad enough not to allow through the first time. Four more judges hand picked by Bush who will advance the Right's agenda. Four more judges Democrats were solidly against.

But even though they were bad enough to block before, now it's a good deal?

Frist is playing a game of nuclear chicken and once again the Democrats, worried about losing or looking bad, blink first. I thought this was something worth fighting for? Democrats have a golden opportunity here with Frist backed into a corner, his fundie base pulling him one way, the moderate GOPers pulling him the other. Something on their side has got to give. It's a lose-lose for the GOP. Yet the Democrats are bailing them out again with another "bipartisan compromise."

I don't get it. We give them 4 of the 7 and stop the "really bad ones." Then the next time, why shouldn't they just nominate 10 really bad ones. Will we then compromise on the "really really bad ones."

Once again the Democrats snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

UPDATE:
Coldblue Steele at dKos points out that Sen. Lott says there is no deal:

Press Statements:
May 9, 2005
Statement from Susan Irby, communications director for Senator Lott:

"For some time now, Senator Lott and Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska have been trying to see if there is common ground that could forge a resolution on both sides of the judicial nominations issue. But Senator Lott has not agreed to this deal reported today. In fact, he did not even speak with Senator Nelson last week or this weekend. He has not changed his contention that all judicial nominees should have an up or down vote on the Senate floor."