A Compromise That Leaves The Judicial Filibuster Intact Is No Compromise At All

The New York Times’ pet conservative David Brooks claims to have the inside scoop on a secret deal Harry Reid offered to break the judicial filibuster impasse:

“Bill Frist should have taken the deal.

Last week, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, made an offer to head off a nuclear exchange over judicial nominations. Reid offered to allow votes on a few of the judges stuck in limbo if the Republicans would withdraw a few of the others.

But there was another part of the offer that hasn’t been publicized. I’ve been reliably informed that Reid also vowed to prevent a filibuster on the next Supreme Court nominee. Reid said that if liberals tried to filibuster President Bush’s pick, he’d come up with five or six Democratic votes to help Republicans close off debate. In other words, barring a scandal or some other exceptional circumstance, Reid would enable Bush’s nominee to get a vote and probably be confirmed.

Reid couldn’t put this offer in writing because it would outrage liberal interest groups. Frist said he’d think about it, but so far he’s let it drop – even though clearing the way for a Supreme Court pick is one of the G.O.P. goals in this dispute.

Speculation about why Frist has let it drop goes in different directions. Perhaps he didn’t know if he could trust Reid to make good on his promise. Perhaps he didn’t think he could sell this agreement to his own base without publicizing this private part of the deal. Perhaps he wants to keep this conflict going to solidify his support among social conservatives for his presidential run. Perhaps he believes as a matter of principle the judicial filibuster must be destroyed.

At any rate, it’s now more likely that Republicans will go ahead and change the filibuster rules, and Democrats will begin their partial shutdown of the Senate.

But Frist should have grabbed Reid’s offer. He should have done it, first, because while the air is thick with confident predictions about what will happen if the nuclear trigger is pulled, nobody really knows. There is a very good chance that as the battle escalates, passions will surge, the tattered fabric of professionalism will dissolve, and public revulsion for both parties will explode.

The filibuster of the President’s judicial nominees is an unconstitutional practice that defies more than 200 years of Senate tradition and Brooks’ whole rationale for letting them do it boils down to, “but they want it and they’ll throw a fit if they don’t get it?”

Well, what if the Democrats want to be heads of every committee in the Senate and they threaten to throw a tantrum if they don’t get their way? What if they decide that Democrats should be allowed to pick all the members of the President’s cabinet and they say they’re going to go “nuclear” if Republicans say, “no?”

Should the GOP just roll over and expose their throats then, too?

The reality here is that the GOP is as close to 100% right on this issue and the Democrats are as close to 100% wrong as it’s ever going to get. If the Republicans in the Senate don’t have the guts to stand up for themselves on an issue as vitally important as judges, even when the Constitution and 200 years of Senate tradition are on their side, then I’m not sure they have what it takes to lead.

If Frist and Reid want to work out some sort of real compromise or even a face saving deal for Reid, that’s fine with me. But any “compromise” that leaves the judicial filibuster intact is an enormous win for Democrats, not a compromise of any sort. Frist should keep that in mind and act accordingly…

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