Thursday, April 28, 2005

Phil O'Buster

As a good liberal Democrat, my eyes glaze over whenever I encounter conservative hand-wringing about how awful it is that Democrats in the Senate have used the filibuster to block a handful of George W. Bush's judicial nominees. My basic response is, "Cry me a river, guys." When Bush stands up in his State of the Union and solemnly announces that giving every judge an up-or-down vote is some kind of matter of principle, and the Republicans all leap to their feet, I have to wonder just where this matter of principle came from, since it certainly wasn't operative when between 1995 and 2001 it was Republicans standing in the way of a whole lot of judicial appointments from a Democratic President.

(And while we're on the subject, don't tell me that filibustering judges is unprecedented and that the Republicans are somehow still on the high ground since they didn't try to filibuster Clinton's judges. First of all, they did try to filibuster at least one of Clinton's judges; second of all, they also seemed OK with filibustering non-judicial Clinton nominees; and third of all, the Republicans were the majority party for three-quarters of Clinton's time as President, and thus they never really had to filibuster Clinton's judges. They simply bottled them up in committee, using fairly arcane rules that Republicans then dismantled as soon as it became a Republican's judges who were at question.)

There are two things worth remembering about the whole judicial-nominee nonsense, which are really at the root of my "Oh, boo hoo, guys" reaction to Republican complaining. First, look at this: it turns out that George W. Bush has seen a greater percentage of his nominees achieve confirmation than any of the three Presidents who preceded him, including Saint Ronald himself, who also had a Senate majority at his back for the first six of his eight years in office. And then there's this, by Matthew Yglesias:

It's not as if Democrats have been filibustering all of Bush's nominees -- they've confirmed over 200 and blocked about ten. Nor is it as if the other 200 judges were nice, squishy liberals and the Democrats are filibustering the only real rightwingers in the bunch. So going nuclear takes us from a position where Bush has packed the district and circuit courts with rightwingers, to one in which the district and circuit courts are slightly more packed with rightwingers.

So next time Bill First or Tom DeLay or anyone else tells me that we have to get all of Bush's judges seated on the bench, or else the entire conservative agenda will fail, my reaction will be – once again – a skyward rolling of my eyes.

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