On the way home this afternoon I listened to Rush for a few minutes. It was quickly clear that he's plenty exercised about the seven Republican Senators who reached agreement with seven Democrats to avoid a rules change in the Senate on judicial nominees. Plenty of conservatives feel the same way.
Why? Maybe I'm missing something here but this seems like a pretty good compromise for conservatives, as long as they have the guts to enforce the agreement down the road and the PR skills to make Democrats pay if they overreach, admittedly a sizeable if.
First of all, three judges that had been blocked for years because they were "extremist" are now going forward. These were important nominations and and they've been languishing for two to four years. The major priorities are now going to move through the Senate.
Second, today one of the nominations, Owen's, got a vote of 81-18 to end debate and move to a floor vote. Look at that number, 81-18. I haven't seen the roll call but that would seem to imply that not just the seven Democrats party to the agreement, but a total of twenty-six Democrats joined fifty-five Republicans in moving this nomination forward. What's with those other nineteen or so Democrats? They didn't have to vote to end debate as they weren't a party to the agreement. They could have stood their ground and voted to not end the debate. You would think their constituents would applaud them for hanging tough on the principle of the thing. They didn't though and this is important because......
Third, it exposes all of the nasty rhetoric on these nominations as the garbage it is and was and creates a benchmark for future nominations. If this was all about principle and keeping "extremists" off the federal bench than what's changed in the last week? Have Owen, Brown, or Pryor taken a pill and suddenly become the "un-extremists"? No, nothing has changed for them but something has changed as far as future nominations. Owen at least, is now acknowledged as not too extreme to get a floor vote by not just the seven Democrats but also by nineteen or so more Democrat Senators.
The task in front of the President and the Republican Senators is to brandish this benchmark on future nominations. Granted, this will not always be as easy as it may seem, but in general Democrats will be forced to explain why a nominee is more extreme than Owen, or Pryor, or Brown if they want to filibuster him or her. At a minimum it puts Democrats more at risk of seeming shrill and extremist themselves.
Now the question is whether Frist can take advantage of this or not. Stay tuned.
Note to my fellow conservatives who seem so upset right now: If it comes to it then fine, we'll do the rule change. But careful what you wish for, you just might get it.