In a post today on Powerline, Paul shoots down the Democratic argument that the reason the minority party has filibustered so many of the president’s judicial picks is due to the “president’s uncompromising approach to his appointments,” that they are blocking the confirmation only of “extremist” nominees. He noted that the president renominated two judges appointed by President Clinton (Roger Gregory and Barrington Parker) who had not been confirmed by the Republican Senate in that Democrat’s second term. And while Democrats joined Senate Republicans in confirming these appointees, they, from the first days of the Bush Administration, blocked many conservative appointees.
I can’t remember any of the first President Bush’s nominees whom President Clinton renominated when he took office in 1993. That’s because there were none. The current President Bush was the first president in history to re-nominate “a failed circuit-court nominee originally nominated by his predecessor from the other political party.” After a divisive election, he renominated those two Clinton appointees as an olive branch to Democrats.
The Democrats took the olive branch the president extended and slapped him in the face with it. They immediately held hearings for, and confirmed, the two Democrats among the nominees and then held up the rest, refusing even to hold hearings for a long time on most of them. They then complained incessantly (and, for the most part, falsely) about not having been adequately consulted by the White House with regard to these nominations. And they executed the play suggested by Professor Tribe, Marcia Greenberger, and others at a Democratic strategy session on how to block Bush judicial nominations a session held before the president had even taken office when they scheduled hearings under Senator Schumer to try to legitimize the notion that judicial nominations could be blocked on ideological, rather than competence grounds.
This sent the strongest possible message to those of us in the White House that there was no interest at all in cooperation or good faith from the Democratic side and that they were determined from the start to try to frustrate the new president’s efforts to fill judicial vacancies. The Democrats were alarmed that the president had begun by focusing on appellate appointments; that those appointments were concentrated in circuits where the partisan balance was close; and that the president appeared determined to appoint highly qualified minorities and women, such as Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen.
The president tried to change the tone, but he was shouted down. This is where the genesis of the conflict that has led us to the brink of the nuclear option really began, at least in this administration. When the Democrats later lost the Senate, they simply shifted tactics, using the filibuster to accomplish what they could no longer use control of the Judiciary Committee to do.
Thus, it was Democrats who started this conflict. They may dress up their filibustering of one-fifth of the president’s circuit-court nominees in constitutional language, but their efforts amount to nothing more than partisan obstructionism to prevent the elected president of the United States from fulfilling his constitutional obligation to appoint federal judges.
The Democrats claim they are only acting to prevent the confirmation of extremist judges, but Paul at Powerline got it right when he wrote, “The real extremism on display here is the unprecedented use of the filibuster to block a dozen or so nominees based on their alleged ideologies.” I would rather Senate Republicans didn’t have to exercise the “nuclear option” so that the Senate could vote on the president’s judicial nominees. And as I’ve said before, I fear this process may lead to the confirmation of Alabama’s William Pryor, a man with a troubling record on gay issues. (I join Log Cabin in urging Republican Senators to vote against confirming him.)
But, the Democrats have not played fairly. They have so far obstructed a record number of the president’s appellate nominees and now if, as appears likely, the Senate votes to stop filibusters on judicial nominations, they will lose what influence they once had over the
president’s judicial appointees. And will have succeeded only in further poisoning the political process.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com