Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Everybody hates a compromise

matters of stateAs most people have probably heard by now, the Senate showdown over the filibuster/"nuclear option" came to an unexpected end last night with the announcement of a compromise brokered by moderates. Under this deal, three stymied appellate court nominees (Brown, Pryor, and Owen) will be given a vote (and presumed approval), the rest left stuck, and the right to filibuster is maintained, with Democrats promising to exercise it only "under extraordinary circumstances."

Nobody is happy: Feingold speaks for the left, saying that Democrats should have stayed united, and that this deal is a green light for more extremist nominations. On the right, Dobson declares betrayal by Republican leaders, and that an "unconsitutional" device has been left in place. I guess that the moderates who worked the deal are protected mainly by their numbers -- 14 were involved, 7 from each party, so the leadership can't begin the hangings right away. Heck, most of these are endangered already...

So, what does the agreement actually mean? It's a bit hard to tell; the Senate works on good faith to a far greater degree than the House or local governments, so it's probably enough that they have agreed to proceed as stated above. However, the actual document leaves some space:
But the compromise — a middle ground between Republicans who want to ban judicial filibusters and Democrats who want to retain them — includes two big loopholes that could come back to haunt the Senate: Democrats reserved the right to filibuster future judicial nominations in "extraordinary circumstances." Republicans kept the power to revisit the nuclear option if they believe Democrats are filibustering in circumstances that do not reach that standard.
Which means that we might face another showdown over the next Supreme Court Justice to come along -- where the Dems would be more likely to feel strongly, and the Repubs might be more afraid of public backlash (of all kinds).

The dealmakers (assembled from the Inquirer):
R: McCain, Chafee, DeWine (OH), Warner, Graham, Collins (ME), Snowe
D: Salazar, Byrd, Lieberman, Nelson (NE), Landrieu, Pryor (AR), Inouye

here's Markos' quick summation of how this played out, reasonably positive.

Update2: Digby captures my initial response here:
I suppose that they may have made some sort of informal agreement as to what constitutes a circumstance more "extraordinary" than this, but I don't know how much trust I would put in such a thing. If Brown, Owen and Pryor are confirmed, the bar has been set very, very low. It's hard to imagine how Bush could come up with anyone even less qualified or philosophically unacceptable than that, but they seem to be able to find the worst judicial freaks in the country so maybe they've been holding out on us. It also pays to remember that Earl Warren wasn't even a judge before he became Chief Justice. Bush could name James Dobson if he wanted to.
But he ends up calling the whole outcome a wash, because the right got some real nuts on the bench but failed to further disassemble our system of government. Pretty small crumbs...

Update 3: Chris at dailyKos does a line-by-line analysis of the agreement and concludes that it is a significant win for the Democrats. Fairly compelling. If you have the time to wade through some chunk of the comments, there's good stuff in there too...

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