Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Nuclear Option

More news comes out every day about this fight over what conservatives used to call the nuclear option (renamed the "constitutional option" when "nuclear option" didn't test favorably). I don't have anything to say about this specific piece of news, but I figured I'd outline my thoughts in general about the whole thing.

First and most important, the Democrats would not be breaking any rules to use the filibuster in this manner. The filibuster already exists, and there's no rule against using it to block judicial nominees. It's simply a case of a minority using a tool at its disposal to make itself heard. As such, I can't help but see it as anything but ultra-sleazy of the GOP to try to change the rules midstream. They want things a certain way, and when it looks like the current rules might not allow them to completely have their way, their first reaction is not only to attempt to change those rules, but to spin the situation to make it appear that the Democrats were the ones trying to change the rules in the first place.

Second, Reid and the Democrats have offered compromises that were far more generous than they should have been. When it's a choice between complete capitulation to the right-wing agenda and keeping things as they are now, there is no liberal position, and hence no compromise. It's just a matter of degree, really. The Democrats' proposed compromises would both have been worse for them than simply staying with the rules that are in place right now. But the ultracons would have us all believe that the current rules are by-products of the evil liberals.

Third, I know that at least one of these nominees doesn't deserve to be a judge in the first place. Thomas Griffith practiced law without a license in Utah for some time. That's it, for me. No judgeship for a guy who broke the law to practice it. I wish somebody could explain to me how it could be possible to see this one another way.

Finally (and I've said this before a number of times), I'd propose that, since they're lifetime appointments, judicial confirmation require a three-fifths majority in the Senate. From my perspective, this would de-politicize the process. Bush couldn't afford to clog up the process with extremist nominees (nor could any liberal president do the same on the other side) who wouldn't be able to garner 60 votes. And isn't an independent, de-politicized judiciary what we all claim to want anyway?