Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Why I like Bob Dole

Writing in Up, Down or Out, former Senator Bob Dole describes, in the clearest and most simple terms that I have yet seen, the options available to both the Democrats and the Republicans in this fight over the filibustering of judicial nominees.

On his time as minority leader of the Senate;
When I was a leader in the Senate, a judicial filibuster was not part of my procedural playbook. Asking a senator to filibuster a judicial nomination was considered an abrogation of some 200 years of Senate tradition.
On the Democratic minority leadership during Mr. Dole's tenure as majority leader of the Senate;
To be fair, the Democrats have previously refrained from resorting to the filibuster even when confronted with controversial judicial nominees like Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. Although these men were treated poorly, they were at least given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. At the time, filibustering their nominations was not considered a legitimate option by my Democratic colleagues - if it had been, Justice Thomas might not be on the Supreme Court today, since his nomination was approved with only 52 votes, eight short of the 60 votes needed to close debate.
On the current Democratic minority leadership's tactics;
That's why the current obstruction effort of the Democratic leadership is so extraordinary. President Bush has the lowest appellate-court confirmation rate of any modern president. Each of the 10 filibuster victims has been rated "qualified" or "well qualified" by the American Bar Association. Each has the support of a majority in the Senate. And each would now be serving on the federal bench if his or her nomination were subject to the traditional majority-vote standard.

This 60-vote standard for judicial nominees has the effect of arrogating power from the president to the Senate. Future presidents must now ask themselves whether their judicial nominees can secure the supermajority needed to break a potential filibuster. Political considerations will now become even more central to the judicial selection process. Is this what the framers intended?
On Senator Byrd's historical tactics as majority leader;
Although the Democrats don't like to admit it, in the past they have voted to end delaying tactics previously allowed under Senate rules or precedents. In fact, one of today's leading opponents of changing the Senate's rules, Senator Robert Byrd, was once a proponent of doing so, and on several occasions altered Senate rules through majoritarian means. I have great respect for Senator Byrd, but Senate Republicans are simply exploring the procedural road map that he himself helped create.
On Senate majority leader Bill Frist's options;
In the coming days, I hope changing the Senate's rules won't be necessary, but Senator Frist will be fully justified in doing so if he believes he has exhausted every effort at compromise.
On the Senate Democratic leadership's options;
Of course, there is an easier solution to the impasse: Democrats can stop playing their obstruction game and let President Bush's judicial nominees receive what they are entitled to: an up-or-down vote on the floor of the world's greatest deliberative body.
Read it all. Bob Dole is made of the stuff that helped make this country the greatest on earth. Too bad there are so few, if any, like him still gumping around.

I think there's something rotten in the state of West Virginia.

Note: While it was nice of the New York Times to allow Mr. Dole a few lines in their vaunted Gray Lady, the editors don't pass up a chance to slant the story a little bit. A trailer at the end of Mr. Dole's comments notes that, "Bob Dole, the author of "One Soldier's Story," is a former majority leader of the Senate." Actually, Mr. Dole served in the Senate as its minority leader for 8 years and as majority leader for only 3.5 years.

I think there's something rotten in the state of New York City, too.

Updates: More here. and related here.

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