Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Senate Compromise: Savior or Sellout?

Late yesterday the Senate reached a compromise deal, termed the "memorandum of understanding," over the controversial Bush judicial nominees. We give the Republicans Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor, and they in effect abandon William Myers, Henry Saad and the "nuclear option" on the filibuster, the 200-year-old political weapon that has been the lifeblood of the minority party to ensure against an imbalance of power. A good deal for Democrats? On some level. For one thing, the filibuster has been saved, at least for the time being. Further, Majority Leader Bill Frist, who's running for president in 2008, will be taking it on the chin from the Christian conservatives, whom he all but promised full up or down votes on all Bush nominees. Lastly, Bush himself was sent a strong message that he'll need to confer with the Senate in the future and send more compromise nominees to the Judiciary Committee or he'll face another battle. Yet on another level I feel like the party sold out, and was unwilling to fight tooth and nail for what it believes in. And that's been the biggest Achilles heel of the Democrats: that they don't stand for much. Owen, Brown and Pryor are bad news, and the Senate compromise does little to make them any less undesirable. The deal also stipulates that future filibusters will occur only under "extreme circumstances," which is quite subjective. Who'll get to define "extreme circumstances?" Will this set the stage for yet another round of Republican bullying? Backing off the filibuster fight demonstrated that we expected to lose, and would be unwilling to carry out the shut-down threats levied by Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV). This has weakened the Democrats' position. When Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist finally steps down, most likely this Summer, do we think Frist and the GOP will sit idle while the Democrats filibuster Bush's ultra-conservative replacement? It appears we may have lost a very important battle this week. I hope that's not a sign that we've also, more importantly, lost the war. Andy

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