Just Above Sunset
May 29, 2005 - Compromise means no one is happy. Or means everyone is happy a little. Or something.

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

Here and on this site’s daily web log you wouldn’t find that much recently on the Republican attempt to end judicial filibusters for good in the US Senate.  It was interesting when it became a Christian evangelical issue – see May 1 and The Oppressed Minority - Christians in America and Conservative Republicans for that.  But most of the month much of the intense discussion of the issues – something news hounds and political junkies do follow – centered on who used to do what and whether this was this an unprecedented power grab or not.  Some of us learned more about Senate rules and traditions, and parliamentary procedure, than was really healthy.  And nothing was happening, until this week, when, on Tuesday, Doctor Frist had scheduled the big showdown.

Late on Monday, May 23, 2005 it all became moot.

Oh, never mind.

Senators compromise on filibusters
Bipartisan group agrees to vote to end debate on 3 nominees
CNN - Monday, May 23, 2005 Posted: 8:33 PM EDT (0033 GMT)


A bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement after days of talks to avert a showdown Tuesday over President Bush's judicial nominees, Sen. John McCain announced Monday evening.

Standing with a group of 13 other senators, the Arizona Republican told reporters the seven Republicans and seven Democrats had brokered a compromise.

"We have reached an agreement to try to avert a crisis in the United States Senate and pull the institution back from a precipice that would have had, in the view of all 14 of us, lasting impact, damaging impact on the institution," McCain said.

Under the deal, judicial nominees would only be filibustered "under extraordinary circumstances," McCain said.

McCain said the group of 14 pledged to vote for cloture -- an end to debate -- for three judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor and Priscilla Owen.

He said the group made no commitment to vote for or against cloture on two nominees, William Myers and Henry Saad.

"We will try to do everything in our power to prevent filibusters in the future," McCain said.

"This agreement is meant in the finest traditions of the Senate it was entered into: trust, respect, and mutual desire to see the institution of the Senate function in ways that protect the rights of the minority," he said. ...


Sounds reasonable, but Kevin Drum on his blog "Political Animal" over at the Washington Monthly is confused


… the text of the deal only mentions five nominees. The group agreed to invoke cloture for three of the nominees (Brown, Owen, and Pryor), which means they'll be confirmed, and made "no commitment" on two of the nominees (Myers and Saad), which presumably means at least a few of the Democrats will agree to continue filibustering them and their nominations are dead.

In return, all 14 agreed to vote against changing the senate rules to eliminate judicial filibusters completely. This means Frist doesn't have a majority to support his rule change, which makes the question of whether a majority can change the rules moot.

But why aren't Griffin and McKeague mentioned? Presumably, not mentioning them is equivalent to "no commitment," right? So why not say so? What am I missing here?

As for the agreement to filibuster future candidates only under "extraordinary circumstances," well, who knows? That could mean pretty much anything, couldn't it?


Yeah, it could.

What to say?  You can read the text of the thing here and here.

Compromise means no one is happy?

A site called Crooks and Liars provides a survey of initial reaction on the right under the heading The Republicans are Screaming


Confirmthem.com: This deal is a load of crap! It is not compromise, but capitulation. And I say that as somebody who did agree that a certain form of compromise was acceptable. But this compromise treats a couple of nominees, Saad and Myers, as pawns. It makes them not people, but expendable objects. And that is unconscionable.

Here's some comment: A complete f****’en outrage. Not another dime, I’ve had it.

Scared Monkeys puts it succinctly: Compromise reached! Republicans screwed!

The Buzz Blog: Sellouts!

Power Line's John Hinderaker: What a hideous deal.

Michelle Malkin: My two cents: Ditto to all of the above. The GOP parade of pusillanimity marches on. With this pathetic cave-in, the Republicans have sealed their fate as a Majority in Name Only.

Captain's Quarters: Frist: Deal will require "careful monitoring". For what? You just gave away the store! Frist is continuing to spin this into a win for the nominees, but it's not going to fly. The Democrats blocked at least two of the nominees and made no substantive guarantees to stop their obstructionism. This, in short, has been a clear victory for the Democrats and a massive failure for the GOP and the White House. The GOP just endorsed the filibuster, and will have no intellectual capacity to argue against its use later on. They sold the Constitution just to get less than half of its blockaded nominees through, and the result will be much less flexibility on future Supreme Court nominations.


Yeah, yeah.

Michelle Malkin, by the way, is that oh-so-cute Filipino-American columnist who recently wrote a book to justify our World War II internment of Americans of Japanese heritage (discussed in these pages here last August) and who was quoted ragging on Newsweek in these pages here last weekend: "Not good enough, Newsweek. People have died because of your shoddy work." An excitable woman it seems….

On the left?  Same sort of thing.  You will find this for the constitutional law folks at Talk Left (and they really are lawyers) –


Sell-Out Deal Made: - Bush's Judges In

The worst, the compromise is in. Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor are in. Total capitulation by Democrats. Total victory for Frist. Let them spin it how they want, it's a loss for the Democrats. Henry Saad of Michigan is the fall guy. He won't get a vote. No one cared about him anyway. That's tossing the Dems a chicken bone.

… We don't have a "Republic" tonight. We have a total Republican regime. Welcome to the Theocracy.


Sigh. I don’t think so.

And this from Sterling Newberry - "They got it. Make no mistake, this deal is an unmitigated disaster for Democracy, for the Democratic Senate caucus, for ordinary Democrats, for all Americans."

Well, if that’s so, what are we to make of this from James Dobson?  He was the one who said this was a fight for Christianity.


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 23 U.S. Newswire - Focus on the Family Action Chairman Dr. James C. Dobson today issued the following statement, upon the announcement by members of the U.S. Senate that a "compromise" had been reached on the filibuster issue:

"This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush's nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.

"We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting to defend the vital principle of basic fairness. That principle has now gone down to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust."


No one is happy – but it is interesting to consider a Supreme Court without Thomas, Scalia and Rehnquist.


And the problem with that would be what?

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga over at the Daily Kos has this to say about the voice of God on this earth – "It's not a good day to be Bill Frist. He looks weak, unable to control his own caucus. His winger friends go ballistic. They get some judges, sure, but ultimately, we can filibuster Bush's next Supreme Court nominee unless he picks a moderate. The Dobson power grab may have failed a day early."

Our columnist Bob Patterson always listens Hugh Hewitt on the radio, and that man on the right, Hewitt, says this:


It is impossible to say whether this is a "terrible" deal, a "bad" deal, or a very, very marginally "ok" deal, but it surely is not a good deal. Not one dime more for the NRSC from me unless and until the Supreme Court nominee gets confirmed, and no other filibusters develop.


The right loses?

The senate majority leader, Reid, thinks so –


… We have sent President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the radical arm of the Republican base an undeniable message: Abuse of power will not be tolerated, and attempts to trample the Constitution and grab absolute control are over. We are a separate and equal branch of government. That is our founding fathers’ vision, and one we hold dear.

I offered Senator Frist several options similar to this compromise, and while he was not able to agree, I am pleased that some responsible Republicans and my colleagues were able to put aside there differences and work from the center. I do not support several of the judges that have been agreed to because their views and records display judicial activism that jeopardize individual rights and freedoms. But other troublesome nominees have been turned down. And, most importantly, the U.S. Senate retains the checks and balances to ensure all voices are heard in our democracy and the Supreme Court make-up cannot be decided by a simple majority.


That sounds just fine – so why are the lawyers at Talk Left so angry?

As I said in late January here, one might consider Henry Clay (1777-1852), the Great Compromiser, and how he is no longer a model for how governance works best.  I guess he’s a villain now.  Bush – never waver (moral certitude) - is the hero now.  That seems to be how one is supposed to govern.  Bush’s whole party operates that way now.  And the other side – the opposition, such as it is – responds in kind.

So we just had a Henry Clay moment.  And it seems no one likes it one bit.



Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....