Sunday :: Jul 3, 2005

As Expected, GOP Tries To Rewrite The Nuclear Option Agreement

by Steve

Those of you who argued that the nuclear option deal was a mistake may be proven right after all. I had argued originally that Harry Reid made a good choice to let seven of his caucus cut a deal with seven GOP senators in order to preserve the filibuster option for a Supreme Court nomination, given the political reality that the Democrats had only 44 votes to begin with, and needed to hold onto all the clubs they had so that they could use them when they really needed them. At the time, I did not feel it was worth losing the filibuster even if the GOP suffered short-term political damage from their heavy-handedness for the sake of a court of appeals nominee, but I did feel that the filibuster needed to be retained for Supreme Court picks. With O’Connor’s vacancy and the possibility (I say possibility not probability) of Bush picking a court-changing far right conservative to replace her and affect the balance of the court, the filibuster is as important as ever.

Today, the GOP gave clear indications that they will interpret any filibuster attempt by Democrats against a far-right pick to be a violation of the nuclear option deal. Both Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell said today that only concerns about a nominee’s personal ethics or character would qualify as “extraordinary circumstances” as spelled out in the agreement and short of that, the seven Democratic signatories to the agreement must oppose any ideology-based filibuster by their fellow Democrats. Failure to do so would be grounds for the GOP to blow up the nuclear option deal and push for a vote to eliminate the filibuster. The GOP senators then used twisted logic to claim that ideological concerns with a nominee obviously weren’t grounds to claim “extraordinary circumstances” because the Democrats failed to filibuster any of the three recent appeals court picks, when in fact the “okie-doke” on those three was explicitly part of the deal in the first place. But unfortunately Ben Nelson of Nebraska, one of the Democratic signatories, implied that he agreed with the GOP interpretation, and gave the impression that he would not support an ideologically-based filibuster, unless the nominee is far to the right.

First off, Nelson is too clever to say this early what he will do. Second, the GOP is clearly trying to have its cake and eat it too here. Third, even if Nelson is against a filibuster of a nominee based solely on their far-right judicial philosophy, then Frist still needs three more Democratic votes to reach 60 for cloture, and I don’t think he will get those votes. And fourth, in that scenario, the GOP would move immediately to invalidate the nuclear option deal and push for a vote to eliminate the filibuster. Polls show that the public wants the Democrats to fight against a far-right nominee and that they don’t want the Senate to be a Bush rubber-stamp for the Supreme Court, especially in cases where it can be shown that Bush did not work with the Senate on a choice. So if the GOP wants to blow up the nuclear option deal in order to get an extremist judge on the highest court in the land, and it Ben Nelson needs for some reason to take his position now for his own re-election next year, so be it.

But I don’t think a president with a 42% approval rating and a 42% support-for-impeachment rating is in any position to dictate squat here. And the Democrats should be ready to force the GOP to the wall on this, even if the nuclear option deal and the filibuster go out the window in the process.

Steve :: 9:24 PM :: Comments (31) :: TrackBack (3) :: Digg It!